Spartans Look Ahead to Big Ten Play

By: AP
By: AP

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- If Javon Ringer has done as much as any runner in the country this season, Michigan State teammate Otis Wiley has been just as dominant at defensive back.
Ringer, the nation's No. 2 rusher and No. 1 scorer, has burst into the headlines and Heisman talk as the first player ever to be named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week three straight times. But Wiley, another senior leader, is tied for the NCAA lead in interceptions and is giving the Spartans a new dimension as a big-play punt returner.
Coach Mark Dantonio couldn't say enough about his two stars in Tuesday's media session. He also made it clear that Michigan State (3-1) will have to build on last weekend's 23-7 "program win" over Notre Dame to be successful in its conference opener at Indiana (2-1) on Saturday.
"As a senior, you need to have your best year if you want to have a great football team," Dantonio said. "I think our team has been very unselfish this year -- and last year as well. I haven't seen anyone call attention to himself."
Ringer went out of his way to do just the opposite after his 201-yard day against the Fighting Irish. He refused to appear at a postgame press conference until 10 offensive linemen, tight ends and fullbacks could stand up behind him.
"I wasn't surprised at all when I heard that he had done that," Dantonio said. "We don't want to focus on one person and say, `We're going to run you 40 times, regardless of the situation.' We have to make sure we're succeeding as a football team. If that happens, more recognition will follow."
Wiley has been recognized for his four interceptions as a strong safety, two at California and two against Notre Dame, plus his 155 yards in punt returns, including a 78-yarder against Eastern Michigan.
"Otis was elected as a captain by his peers," Dantonio said. "He's an outstanding person, much like Javon. He's an outstanding competitor, a good worker and an outstanding athlete. And he's a good soul. When you carry that with you, you carry some intangibles. You're seeing some of those things pay off."
Ringer has been just as busy, carrying the ball 143 times -- 30 more than anyone else in the country -- and returning kickoffs despite concerns that it could be too risky.
"I don't think we'll re-evaluate that,' Dantonio said. "That just makes him more valuable and allows him to showcase his talents even more. He's a threat every time he touches the ball. And that gives him a chance to get out in space."
Few players can do more in the open field than Indiana quarterback Kellen Lewis, who is averaging 9.5 yards per carry. He scorched the Spartans for a 59-yard score on his team's first offensive play in last year's game, a 52-27 MSU triumph.
"He can take a bad play and make it a good one very, very fast, so it'll be a challenge for us," Dantonio said. "First, you need to simulate that in practice. Then you need to take a different approach. It's not like playing in the NFL, where everyone is pretty constant from week to week."
The Spartans have seen what can happen when the Hoosiers catch fire, as they did in a 46-21 win two years ago in Bloomington, the first in an exchange of 25-point home wins.
"That has been brought up already -- not by me but by the players who were on that 2006 team," Dantonio said. "We just talk about it being very, very difficult to win on the road. This is a conference that knows each other. We know Indiana a little bit. And they know us. There's a history. So you have to ante up a little bit more. Our players have to understand that."


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