Oregon's Herbert: "He can make every throw on the field..."

Oregon's Herbert: "He can make every throw on the field..."

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Oregon's Herbert: "He can make every throw on the field..."

Michigan State (7-5) is in full-on preparation mode for its matchup with the Oregon Ducks (8-4) in the Redbox Bowl on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve.  Mission #1: find a way to slow down Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert.

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Oregon football fans got a Christmas present on Wednesday when the Ducks’ quarterback, Justin Herbert, announced he had decided to put off his entry into the NFL Draft and come back for another season with the Ducks in 2019.

Herbert has all of the tools an NFL team would want in a quarterback and just about everyone had Herbert projected as the first quarterback to be selected in this coming Spring’s draft.

First, consider Herbert’s stats from the regular season he and the Ducks just completed:

  • 221 of 371 for 2,985 yards, good for a 59.6 completion percentage.
  • 28 touchdowns.
  • 8 interceptions.
  • Quarterback rating of 147.7.

Now, consider what might be every bit as important as the numbers:

  • 6’6″
  • 233 pounds

Teams across the NFL are, eventually, going to have a very hard time slowing this quarterback down.

But before that comes, Michigan State’s defense – one of the best in the nation – will have to figure that out.

“He can make every throw on the field,” MSU linebacker Joe Bachie said Thursday. “You understand why he’s a first-round pick, for sure.”

Herbert is a third-year starter and he’s thrown a touchdown in 27 straight games.

Here’s Spartan defensive coordinator Mike Tressel on Herbert:

“I mean, he legitimately can be scrambling around, flip his hips and fling it 60 yards down the field,” Tressel said. “We need to make him move around in the pocket and not allow him to be comfortable. …When you (face) a great quarterback, you better be locked in.”

After a rough start to the season when the Spartans allowed 305 yards of passing offense per game through the first five games, Michigan State did what Tressel referred to – it locked in.

Over the final four games of the season, Michigan State allowed just 138.8 yards a game through the air.

Josiah Scott’s return to the lineup certainly helped the secondary and the overall defense.

But the Spartans will be without Justin Layne who won’t play after deciding to enter the NFL Draft.

However, the personnel in the defensive backfield hasn’t been the sole reason for Michigan State’s significant improvement in pass defense.

The Spartans’ front seven has turned into a wrecking machine and the harassment of the quarterback from game to game has caused teams to find it difficult to pile up yards through the air.

Kenny Willeks, Raequan Williams, Jacub Panasiuk, Mike Panasiuk, along with Gerald Owens, Jack Camper and the batch of Spartan linebackers have all created havoc for opposing quarterbacks.

The combination of that threatening and harassing front seven with the “locked in” backfield may be the difference in this matchup between two teams looking to end the season on a high note – and get 2019 started with positive momentum.

As talented as Herbert is, the Ducks’ passing offense shouldn’t scare the Spartans.

Herbert and his teammates form the nation’s 43rd best passing offense at 254 yards per game.

Oregon’s overall offense is 32nd in the nation with 445.9 yards per game – but the Ducks can score and have a 37.2 points per game average, good for 18th in the country.

Michigan State’s pass defense finished the season 64th in the country, allowing 230.2 yards per game.

But that front seven is capable of dominating in the trenches.

The Spartans finished the season with the 14th best overall defense, led by the #1 rushing defense in the country.

Herbert will be back with the Ducks after the Redbox Bowl and the NFL will have to wait another year.

But it’s not at all crazy to think that the Michigan State defense can find a way to slow down the 6’6″ future NFL star.

Mark Dantonio and Mike Tressel have had a month to prepare the Spartan defense for this challenge.

Don’t be surprised if Herbert commiserates with Trace McSorley after the Redbox Bowl.

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