EAST LANSING - Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio and his staff made running the football a top priority between last season and this. And the time the Spartans spent on their rushing attack was well spent based on their performance in a 38-14 win over Western Michigan University.
The Spartans totaled 297 yard rushing, averaged eight yards per carry, and scored four rushing touchdowns all without the services of starting running back Larry Caper, who was held out of the opener with a minor hand injury.
"I thought we ran the football very effectively - almost 300 rushing," said Dantonio. "Offensively, production was 500 yard. So you have production and score 38 points. You throw the ball downfield, especially in the second quarter, we came out very well. At times we need to be a little bit more crisp, but we'll keep working on that."
The Spartans were paced on the ground by true freshman Leveon Bell, who became the first running back in Michigan State history to rush for 100 yards in a single game in his freshman debut. Bell finished the game with 141 yards on 10 carries with a pair of touchdowns.
Sophomore Edwin Baker, who started in place of Caper, had a strong performance of his own. The former prep All-American rushed for 117 yards on 17 carries with two touchdowns.
"Offensively, we saw Le'Veon step out," said Dantonio. "Baker made a nice run. I thought he played very, very well. Le'Veon played very well. He had his opportunities ."
Another point of emphasis in the off-season was creating turnovers on defense. Michigan State forced three turnovers against the Broncos. Greg Jones forced a fumble that was recovered by Tyler Hoover. Senior safety Marcus Hyde picked off a pass late in the game and Denicos Allen recovered a fumbled snap.
"Defensively, three turnovers, one of the things we continue to emphasize this entire year after last season was turnovers," Dantonio said. "We came away with three turnovers which was great to see. Defensively we need to continue to do that."
Spartans lose Rouse for the season: Dantonio announced that Josh Rouse had been lost for the season after sustaining a fractured vertebrae in his neck during Saturday's game. A fifth-year senior and starting fullback, Rouse.will undergo surgery on Sunday evening.