Irish take on another tough quarterback
By TIM CASEY
After facing one of the top quarterbacks in the country last week, anything the Irish face now should be a breeze.
Or maybe not.
"I think their [Michigan State's] quarterback is really a good player," Bob Davie said at Tuesday's press conference. "He reminds me a lot of [Tom] Brady from Michigan. He's a big, tall guy that throws the ball accurately and can move around a bit."
That quarterback Davie is referring to is MSU's Bill Burke. Though not as hyped as Purdue's Drew Brees, the Spartans lefty signalcaller has an impressive resume of his own.
Notre Dame fans remember Burke from last year. Burke was the leader behind an offense that scorched the Irish for 42 first-half points en route to a 45-23 record. In that game, Burke threw for 209 yards and three touchdowns.
In his first season as starting quarterback, Burke completed 54 percent of his passes for a Michigan State record of 2,595 yards to go along with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
"He's gotten a lot stronger and has a lot more confidence than last year," said defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. "Their offense suits him well. He'll be a load for us to handle."
While Burke directs the Spartan offense, he has a pair of talented receivers that make his job a little easier. Both junior Plaxico Burress and senior Gari Scott will pose a threat to the thin Irish secondary.
"They're the best wide receivers we'll play all year long," said Mattison. Burress — one of the top five receivers in the country, according to The Sporting News, and a potential first-round draft pick — begins his second campaign as the starter at split end.
A 6-foot-6, 229 pound target with speed, Burress led the Spartans with 65 receptions, 1,013 receiving yards and eight touchdown receptions a year ago. Included among his receptions was an 86-yard touchdown against the Irish.
Scott, the returning starter at flanker, ranked second on the team a year ago with 58 catches for 843 yards. He also returns punts for the Spartans.
Sophomore Herb Haygood, who runs a 4.4 40-yard dash and junior Lavaille Richardson provide additional threats to the passing game.
Thus far this season in Michigan State's two wins, Burke has thrown for 316 yards and two touchdowns. Scott caught 7 receptions and three touchdowns while Buresss led the team with eight receptions.
"They do an excellent job like Michigan does on throwing the ball a lot on running downs," Davie said. "They throw it when you least expect it so you don't get matched up a lot, particularly in pass-rush situations. It's not easy to pressure him [Burke] because of their scheme."
All Sports Stories for Friday, September 17, 1999