EAST LANSING, Mich. – Riley Bullough hadn’t missed a game as a member of the Michigan State Spartans since he redshirted during his freshman season. So when the senior middle linebacker and tri-captain was absent from pregame warmups Saturday against Wisconsin, it was a noticeable absence.
Bullough spent the day in warmups instead of warming up and had to watch from the sideline as the No. 8 Spartans suffered their worst home defeat in seven years, 30-6 against No. 11 Wisconsin.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio is just this side of a Fort Knox guard when it comes to disclosing injuries, so the only official announcement that came from the Spartans was that Bullough would not start. Junior Shane Jones took Bullough’s place in the lineup and recorded six tackles, two tackles for loss and one-half of a sack.
Early in its broadcast, the Big Ten Network said the injury occurred during practice leading up to the game at Notre Dame last Saturday and that it could cause Bullough to miss multiple games. BTN did not report on any specifics about the injury.
Michigan State held Wisconsin to 3.0 yards per carry rushing, but the Badgers still ran for 122 yards as a team. Wisconsin converted seven of 15 third downs, including five when it needed eight yards or more, to continually hold onto possession of the ball. The Badgers finished the game with 32 minutes, 48 seconds of possession time.
“I thought Shane Jones played pretty well,” said Dantonio. “I thought we played pretty well in that (run) area. And Riley is playing linebacker, so I think the situation is a little bit more with the corner route, and number 7 not being covered. They got around us a couple times. I think Riley, from the sideline, did a great job. Those are the things that you have to deal with, that’s all a part of this. A couple of the players have not played, and we’re still good. So that’s not an excuse.”
Jones started for the just the second time in his career. His previous start came last season when Bullough had to sit out the first half against Central Michigan because of a previous targeting penalty. Jones said he didn’t know he’d be starting until right before the game. He also said Bullough stayed engaged in the game despite not being able to play.
“He was talking to us about what he saw from the sidelines, and we told him what we were seeing from the field, so it was kind of like having an extra coach out there,” said Jones. “I felt like I communicated well. I had the trust of the other 10 guys and I trusted them. It was just being out there consistently for a whole game for the first time. I took a lot from it. I learned a lot. I learned about making in-game adjustments.”
The linebacker unit was further depleted when outside linebacker Jon Reschke left the game in the third quarter. Reschke was shaken up after rushing against Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook on a third-and-8 play that resulted in a 31-yard completion. Reschke was taken to the sidelines and evaluated by trainers. No specifics of his status were announced and Reschke did not return to the game. Sophomore Andrew Dowell replaced Reschke.