BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio has two ways to get his defense’s attention this week: He can simply have players watch Tevin Coleman’s game tapes or he can show them Coleman’s stats.
Either way, the message is clear: The eighth-ranked Spartans must slow down the nation’s leading rusher Saturday at Indiana.
“The guy has huge figures in terms of runs. I think he leads or maybe is tied in the nation for big runs, you know, 20-yard runs, three 70-yard runs, X number of 60-yard runs,” Dantonio said. “When you look at that, the statistics of his big runs, they are staggering.”
So far, no team has been able to stop the 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior.
Not in-state rival Indiana State, which allowed Coleman to run for a career best 247 yards and two touchdowns. Not SEC member Missouri, which yielded 122 yards and a TD on the ground and 57 yards on three catches even though Coleman missed more than a quarter. Not Iowa, which had allowed 92.3 yards rushing going into last weekend. Coleman torched the Hawkeyes for 219 yards and three TDs.
Coleman leads the Bowl Subdivision with 176.7 yards rushing per game, 8.8 yards per carry and 199.0 yards from scrimmage. He has the longest active streak in the nation for consecutive 100-yard games, has run for a TD in a school-record 15 consecutive games and in six games has already become the fastest player in school history with 1,000 yards (1,060).
As for those big runs Dantonio mentioned, Coleman has the highest total of TD runs from 20-plus yards (15), 30-plus yards (13), 40-plus yards (11), 50-plus yards (seven), 60-plus yards (six) and 70-plus yards (three) since 2013.
He’s been so good this season, there’s been debate about a possible jump to the NFL next season and comparisons to other former college stars.
“As a freshman, he worked like that guy (Adrian) Peterson did at Oklahoma,” said Indiana coach Kevin Wilson, the Sooners former offensive coordinator. “He had a phenomenal work ethic and really high talent. But his work ethic (Coleman’s) and the type of kid he is might be better than the talent, and the talent is pretty good. You all see that (on Saturday), but we see it on Tuesday. You come to practice, he practices that way.”
The Illinois native has mostly stayed under the radar this season, but that could change with a big day against what has been one of the country’s stoutest run defenses the last three seasons.
Especially given the circumstances this week.
Indiana (3-3, 0-2 Big Ten) already will be without starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who sustained a season-ending separated left shoulder last weekend. True freshman Chris Covington was supposed to replace Sudfeld after finishing the Iowa game 3 of 7 for 31 yards with 11 carries for 44 yards, but that could be in jeopardy.
The Indianapolis Star reported Wednesday that Covington’s mother said her son would not play this week. Wilson has not been available for interviews since Tuesday and would not confirm the report on his weekly radio show Wednesday. If Covington doesn’t play, true freshman Zander Diamont, who hasn’t taken a snap all season, would likely make his first college start against the stingy Spartans.
How will Michigan State (5-1, 2-0) cope with Coleman? Likely stacking the line of scrimmage and daring the Hoosiers to throw.
“You’ll see a tremendous defensive opponent, so you have to put those guys in good places and don’t get cute, don’t get fancy,” Wilson said when asked whether the quarterback situation would force the Hoosiers to run even more. “We are not going to hand the ball off on every play, that doesn’t work. We are not going to be a true option team. Maybe the quarterback runs a little bit more but you know, we’ll play to our strengths.”
Meaning Michigan State must be ready for a steady diet of Coleman.
“I think he’s a more complete running back,” Dantonio said, comparing the difference from last season to this one. “You see him running through tackles, and you know, your objective is to shut him down. I think he’s obviously one of the keys to victory for us.”
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