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updated: 10/15/2013 8:36 PM

Michigan St. finds reliable RB in Langford

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  • Michigan State's Jeremy Langford celebrates his 32-yard touchdown during the third quarter of Saturday's game against Indiana.

    Michigan State's Jeremy Langford celebrates his 32-yard touchdown during the third quarter of Saturday's game against Indiana.
    Associated Press

Associated Press

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio got exactly what he wanted from Jeremy Langford last weekend against Indiana.

Now he wants to see him do it again.

The combination of Langford and freshman Delton Williams accounted for 201 yards on 35 carries during Michigan State's 42-28 victory over the Hoosiers on Saturday. A similar effort this week against visiting Purdue could put the Spartans (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) in first in the Legends Division all by themselves.

Langford's 109 yards on 23 attempts to go along with three rushing touchdowns and a TD reception made him the Big Ten's offensive player of the week. But it was the fourth touchdown, a 32-yard sweep, that excited the crowd and showed off his breakaway speed.

"Jeremy Langford needs to line up every snap with the mindset that he can go the distance," Dantonio said Tuesday. "He had that last week and ran extremely hard."

He had plenty of help from Williams, whose power provided an effective change of pace. He had 92 yards on 12 carries in just his second collegiate appearance after moving ahead of fellow newcomer Gerald Holmes.

"So much of playing running back is about catching the ball and pass protection," Dantonio said. "We felt Delton was a little ahead of Gerald in those areas. And we needed a guy to offset what we get from Langford and Nick Hill."

Hill didn't carry the ball last week despite a season average of 5.2 yards per carry. Until last week, his 35-yard run against Youngstown State was the team's only explosive running play.

That changed with Langford's TD dash and Williams' 37-yard run against Indiana, plays that showed what an improving offensive line can help produce. Those gains, especially Williams' sprint, looked a lot like the kinds of plays Michigan State got from Le'Veon Bell, a first-team All-Big Ten pick who is starting for the Pittsburgh Steelers in his rookie season in the NFL.

"We got over 200 yards on the ground, and that helped us stay balanced," Dantonio said. "When the backs and the offensive line can do that, we're able to take some of the pressure off the passing game."

Connor Cook seems to have settled in at quarterback after a strange September shuffle. The receivers have helped a great deal with much improved play, including big pickups after the catch. But two good weeks shouldn't make anyone complacent.

"We've handled adversity and been resilient," Dantonio said after a sluggish September, capped by a loss at Notre Dame. "Now, we have to be able to handle success, too."

Dantonio didn't have much to say about his depth chart, other than the reappearance of the oft-injured and heralded sophomore Lawrence Thomas, this time at defensive end. Expect Thomas to see action for the first time this year against the Boilermakers (1-5, 0-2). There is also a chance top receiver Macgarrett Kings could relinquish his punt return duties if he fumbles one more time.

"Of our five fumbles, we've lost three on punt returns," Dantonio said. "That simply shouldn't be happening. We made one change back there. If we have to make another one, that's what we'll do. The pressure is on."

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