4-0 Mich. State on offensive

Running up yards and points, No. 11 Spartans are set to take on unranked Michigan

Notebook

October 01, 2005|By DON MARKUS | DON MARKUS,SUN REPORTER

Last year's game against Michigan sort of summed up a 5-7 season for Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton and the Spartans. Stanton was knocked out with a shoulder injury and Michigan State couldn't hold onto a 27-10 lead in the final nine minutes, losing in triple overtime.

Going into today's game against their in-state rivals in East Lansing, Mich., the Spartans are 4-0 and ranked 11th. Stanton is being mentioned as a legitimate candidate for the Heisman Trophy and leading the only offense in the country among the top 10 in both rushing and passing.

"I think it's as good an offense as we've seen in a long time," said Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, whose unranked Wolverines (2-2) will be hoping to slow down a unit that ran up a school-record 705 yards in last week's 61-14 demolition at Illinois.

It's really the first time since Spartans coach John L. Smith came to Michigan State from Louisville three years ago that he is running the Spread, the offense he devised and Urban Meyer admittedly stole from Smith and has used with great success at Utah and now at Florida.

Even when the Spartans finished 8-5 and Smith was named the Big Ten's coach of the year in 2003, Michigan State relied mostly on quarterback Jeff Smoker's arm. A year ago, the more mobile Stanton started the season recovering from a knee injury and ended it playing with the bad shoulder that required surgery.

This year, Stanton leads the nation in passing efficiency, right ahead of reigning Heisman winner Matt Leinart of USC, and is also second in completion percentage (73.1). Last week, Stanton completed 20 of 26 for 259 yards and a school-record five TDs against the Illini.

"It shows what can happen when you allow the system to work for you," Stanton told USA Today earlier this week.

Another big reason for the Spartans being unbeaten - and why, if they win today, have a great chance to win the Big Ten for the first time since 1990 - revolves around their three-headed tailback. All give Michigan State, which finished last in the Big Ten in rushing in 2004, a different look.

In freshman Javon Ringer, the Spartans have a speed back who has gained 367 yards and scored four TDs. Senior Jason Teague (193 yards, the game-winning TD to beat Notre Dame) provides toughness. Sophomore Jehuu Caulcrick (305 yards, two TDs) has a little of both.

The fast start, in stark contrast to the more celebrated rivals, has allowed the Spartans and Stanton to get the attention normally reserved for the guys in Ann Arbor. Trying not to stir things up this week, Smith made all but a few players off-limits to the media.

"We're definitely not there yet by any means," said Smith. "If Drew stays healthy and we keep him in there throwing it around, we have a chance to be pretty good."

Don't break a leg

Memphis freshman quarterback Billy Barefield can't think about why he has ascended so quickly to the starting job for the Tigers. But all he has to do is look at his team's sideline in order to see junior Patrick Byrne and redshirt freshman Will Hudgens, each out with a broken leg suffered this season.

Barefield came to Memphis after graduating high school early - he went to the renowned national power Evangelical Christian in Louisiana - and has benefited from that extra time in the program. It has showed in his first two appearances, helping the Tigers score five times in eight possessions.

"I didn't want to be in a situation where I had to throw Billy in to win a game and he'd never been in a game," said Memphis coach Tommy West, whose 1-2 team plays UTEP tonight. "I'm not a prophet. I didn't realize it was going to happen the next week."

Bo knows

Saturday golf dates might have to be put on hold for a number of former college coaches, now that they've signed up for something called the Master Coaches Survey. Among those chosen to participate in the weekly Top 25 include former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler.

"When I was coaching, I couldn't be completely fair to the teams I didn't see," said Schembechler. "I would usually pass [voting in the coaches' poll] on to other people. I just didn't have time. Now, not only do we have the time, but we look at 20 game tapes each week. I know more about college teams throughout the country than I ever did when I was coaching."

Seeing pink

There are plenty of causes to protest these days on college campuses, but the color of a locker room? Apparently, professors and students at the University of Iowa have found a common cause, calling for the athletic department to redo the visitors' digs at Kinnick Stadium that former Hawkeyes coach Hayden Fry had painted pink years ago, with everything from carpet to shower curtains to match.

Fry said that as a psychology major he once learned that the color calmed people, but some, like law school professor Jill Gaulding, believe it is an offensive attitude toward homosexuals and women. "I want the locker room gone," Gaulding said.

Is this "Pinked" or "Punked?"

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