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Stanton standing tall in Spartan backfield

Mike Gilloon | Friday, September 16, 2005

Drew Stanton ranked No. 10 in the Big Ten last season in passing yards per game.

So it’s not a stretch to say the Michigan State quarterback has exceeded expectations with his success through two games in 2005.

Stanton has completed 78.2 percent (43-for-55) of his passes for 598 yards this season, with five touchdowns and just one interception. He ranks fourth in the nation in passing efficiency.

Though these staggering statistics came at home against perennial doormats Kent State and Hawaii, Irish coach Charlie Weis is still wary of the quarterback’s ability to score on Notre Dame’s defense.

“I think [Stanton] is something special,” Weis said. “Not only is he one of their captains, but he can do it all. Look at last week … He’s a very special player.”

Stanton led a Spartan offense that racked up 685 yards of total offense in its season-opener against Kent State, the second-most in program history.

Michigan State also opened up a 35-0 lead on Hawaii and tallied 499 yards of total offense. These performances have put Michigan State No. 2 nationally in total offense.

Stanton did not start in last season’s 31-24 loss to Notre Dame, a duty fell on the graduated Stephen Reaves. But Stanton did enter the game eventually and went 8-for-12 and led the Spartans with 112 yards through the air.

Last week he torched the Rainbows, going 21-of-36 for 300 yards and three touchdowns. That was the third career 300-yard passing game for the junior from Harrison Hills High School in Michigan, where he was a consensus top-20 quarterback recruit in 2001.

Irish cornerback Ambrose Wooden agreed with his coaches’ respect and concern for Stanton’s ability to make plays both in and out of the pocket.

“He’s a great player, a great all-around quarterback,” Wooden said. “He can beat you here, there. He’s an agile, do-it-all type guy. You’ve just got to be prepared for him.”

Stanton started seven games in 2004 and threw for an average of 160 yards per game while also ranking eighth in the Big Ten with 68.7 average rushing yards. This combination propelled him to a third-place finish in the conference in total offense, which worries Weis.

“I’ll tell you what. Every time Stanton hands off and starts to roll out, that concerns me,” Weis said. “He does a pretty good job of ball faking after he hands the ball off. That’s one of our concerns because he’s so athletic, you always have to be concerned with him pulling the ball down, coming down the line of scrimmage and doing that. There’s a lot of things I’m worried about with that offense. That’s just one of many.”

Michigan quarterback Chad Henne had 223 yards on 19-of-44 passing with one touchdown during the 17-10 Notre Dame win last week. The Irish defense rattled Henne into one fumble and one interception.

With Stanton’s ability to make plays with both his feet and his arm, Weis wishes Michigan State coach John L. Smith would only utilize one side of his talent.

“We prepare for [Stanton’s rushing ability],” Weis said. “To be honest with you, that kid, the way he throws the ball, I’d do all I could not to get him hurt.”