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The Detroit News - - Col­lege Foot­ball -

“McSor­ley is re­ally a triplethreat out there and that’s a part of the game plan,” de­fen­sive tack­les coach Ron Bur­ton said. “That’s ob­vi­ous that we need to stop their run game with McSor­ley and also to stop their pass game with McSor­ley. That’s al­ways the chal­lenge and we’re look­ing for­ward to it.”

And that’s the chal­lenge with McSor­ley — fo­cus on one as­pect of his game and he beats you with the other. While he’s been ef­fec­tive throw­ing the ball in the past against Michi­gan State, this sea­son he’s run­ning the ball bet­ter, av­er­ag­ing 82 yards a game. At the same time, he’s com­plet­ing just 53.2 per­cent of his passes for 210 yards a game.

Even so, the Spar­tans know the Nit­tany Lions quar­ter­back re­mains the fo­cal point.

“I think McSor­ley is an ex­cel­lent player,” Dan­to­nio said.

“They are a chal­lenge of­fen­sively, and he cre­ates that dynamic, that mul­ti­ple run/pass-guy type quar­ter­back, and he’s got a tough­ness as­pect to him, too.

“He’s a great player, great leader, and a lot of their suc­cess hinges on what he does, so we need to negate his abil­i­ties as best we can.”

What makes the chal­lenge even tougher for the top rush­ing de­fense in the coun­try is the fact Penn State (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) also has run­ning back Miles San­ders, who is av­er­ag­ing 107.6 yards a game and has scored six rush­ing touch­downs.

San­ders has taken over for Saquon Barkley, who had his share of prob­lems against Michi­gan State. But San­ders is explosive, run­ning for 200 yards against Illi­nois and bro­ken two runs of 40 yards or more this sea­son for the Nit­tany Lions.

He be­lieves pa­tience is the key against the Spar­tans.

“I think (the of­fen­sive line) is the strongest part of our of­fense, and we’ve found an iden­tity run­ning the ball,” San­ders told the Cen­tre Daily Times. “Their run de­fense is real good, so it starts with be­ing more phys­i­cal than them and be­ing pa­tient and tak­ing those three-yard, four­yard runs.

“And when it’s time to split one, split it.”

Of course, split­ting it hasn’t hap­pened against Michi­gan State, which hasn’t al­lowed a run of 20 yards or more this sea­son.

Much of that is thanks to tack­les Mike Pana­siuk and Rae­quan Wil­liams play­ing their best foot­ball while get­ting backed up by Bachie in the mid­dle with help from de­fen­sive end Kenny Willekes and ac­tive safeties.

“Their D-tack­les and their D-ends are big, are strong, are phys­i­cal, are very, very ag­gres­sive,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “They have got the two Pana­siuk boys that we re­cruited that are prob­lems, that are prob­lems, very phys­i­cal, very phys­i­cal in­side.

Rae­quan Wil­liams is mas­sive. He’s 6-4, 300 pounds. When you watch the tape and you’re look­ing at all those thighs and legs and rear ends, I mean, they are mas­sive.

“And then they have a mid­dle line­backer that we think is one of the bet­ter lineback­ers that we’ve seen on tape this year in Bachie.”

The Michi­gan State cap­tain, who had an in­ter­cep­tion in last sea­son’s matchup, knows the odd­s­mak­ers aren’t given the Spar­tans (3-2, 1-1) much of a chance, but that hasn’t stopped him from look­ing for­ward to the chal­lenge.

“We know we can beat ’em. That’s our mind­set,” Bachie said. “If our mind­set wasn’t that then we wouldn’t come out here and prac­tice like we (have). We un­der­stand we can bet ’em. It’s gonna be a fun game. To come in here to play a team like this, you gotta love it. There’s go­ing to be 110,000 (fans) and hope­fully they’re rock­ing. We feed off that.”

Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Penn State run­ning back Miles San­ders is av­er­ag­ing 6.2 yards a carry (538 yards on 87 car­ries) with six TDs.

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