ORLANDO, Fla. — Ross Weaver just found out about the mark Georgia wide receivers Mohamed Massaquoi and A.J. Green are approaching, and he’s going to do everything he can to keep the prolific Bulldogs from reaching it.
With both Bulldogs receivers less than 100 yards shy of each recording 1,000 receiving yards for the season, Weaver stated a lofty goal he has set for Michigan State.
“Regardless of what their yards are, we don’t want them to have any catches on us,” the Spartans’ cornerback said. “Plays are going to be made, some plays are going to be given up, but at the same time, we just want to go out there and play ball and play hard. Regardless if they had 2 receiving yards or 1,000 receiving yards, we want to play hard every snap.”
While it’s difficult to imagine the Bulldogs’ high-powered passing game led by Massaquoi, Green and quarterback Matthew Stafford not recording any yards through the air, Michigan State has done everything it can to make sure Massaquoi and Green don’t reach the coveted 1,000-yard milestone.
The Spartans admit they haven’t seen a passing game like Georgia’s, but the numbers against their Big Ten and non-conference opponents show stumping the secondary can be a formidable task.
Michigan State gave up more than 250 yards passing only four times this season. The secondary held Ohio State’s talented passing attack to just 116 yards in a 45-7 Michigan State loss, which might not bode well for the Bulldogs.
“I would have to say (Georgia is) probably closer to Ohio State,” Michigan State middle linebacker Adam Decker said. “They’ve got talented linemen, they’ve got a talented running back, but then they’ve got good receivers, too, that they kind of like to throw it deep to.
“In that sense, they’re unique in that they throw a lot more deep passes than most of the teams we’ve played this year, and obviously, being from the SEC, they’re going to bring a different style to it, too.”
That style, however, has been set by Massaquoi and Green. Massaquoi, a senior, has caught 57 passes for 910 yards and eight touchdowns. Green, a true freshman, is closer to the elusive 1,000-yard mark with 951 yards and eight touchdowns.
Each of them might argue that Georgia’s passing game is closer to that of Penn State, which racked up 419 yards and five passing touchdowns in a 49-18 drubbing of the Spartans to end the regular season.
“I would say, of course, this is going to be the best receiving corps and this is going to be the most difficult receiving corps (we’ve faced this year),” Weaver said. “At the same time, all you can do is do what you do. You try to get better in practice every day and use your technique regardless of who you’re covering. Regardless of who’s on the opposite side of the ball, you have to do what you were taught to do, what you know how to do.”
And Michigan State, despite a lackluster performance against Penn State, seems to know how to defend the pass. The Spartans suffered through some injuries earlier in the season in the secondary, but they’re starting to get back to full strength.
The Spartans are expecting strong safety Otis Wiley, who has been banged up this season, to be 100 percent for Thursday’s Capital One Bowl matchup. The Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist ranks second in the Big Ten and is tied for 35th nationally in interceptions with four of Michigan State’s 13 total this year.
The secondary, which is made up of two juniors, a senior and a sophomore, has been studying up on Georgia’s tendencies in the passing game, and Green has garnered the most attention.
The 6-foot-4 freshman has turned a lot of heads nationally this year, and the Spartans have taken notice of his abilities to make game-changing plays.
The key to stopping Green, Weaver said, lies in staying consistent and getting in the young receiver’s psyche to deny him the 1,000-yard mark in his first year with the Bulldogs.
“I don’t approach him any different at all. Even though he’s a freshman, he can make plays,” Weaver said. “I don’t go at him acting like he’s a freshman. I’m going to get all up in his head.”