EAST LANSING - Sophomore linebacker Joe Bachie says he has a long way to go before he can be compared to some of his standout predecessors at the all-important Mike linebacker position, Riley Bullough and Max Bullough.
But those guys rarely had as productive of a day as Bachie did during Saturday’s 17-10 meat-grinder victory over Iowa, at Spartan Stadium.
Bachie quarterbacked a defense that held Iowa to 19 yards of net rushing and only 11 first downs on the day.
The 6-foot-2, 233-pound sophomore from Brook Park, Ohio registered a team-high nine tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack.
He continually diagnosed Iowa’s backfield flow quickly, pursued with quick, correct angles, arrived with force and finished tackles.
And he capitalized on being at the right place at the right time early in the second half when he intercepted an unintentional pass by Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley at the Michigan State 7-yard line.
On that play, Stanley was in the process of trying to throw on the scramble when the ball slipped out of his hands and into the air. Bachie happened to be minding the middle of the field in zone defense when seeing the free football. He made a quick burst toward the ball, dove for it, and cradled his hand beneath the ball just before it hit the ground for a diving catch.
That play thwarted an Iowa scoring opportunity, proving costly for the Hawkeyes in a low-scoring game.
“We talked about it being a must-win game,” Bachie said. “That was our mentality coming in. We knew it was going to be a fight. It took all 12 rounds in that fight.”
Bachie leads Michigan State in tackles for the season with 34. After this standout performance in his first career start of a Big Ten game, Bachie will undoubtedly start to gain recognition as one of the better middle linebackers in the conference.
“I feel I have a long way to go to be where Max and Riley were. But I’m learning. I’m learning on the fly. These reps, this experience help me a lot, and watching 2013 and ’14 film on them - it helps me.”