Le'Veon Bell put on an incredible show in the opening week of the season, carrying Michigan State on his back. Now it's time to see what he can do for an encore.
Following a workhorse performance, Bell and the 11th-ranked Spartans look to keep the production up as they make the short trip to face Central Michigan on Saturday.
After splitting time at running back the past two seasons, Bell exploded in his first game as the main guy, carrying 44 times – fourth-most in school history – for 210 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Spartans past then-No. 24 Boise State 17-13 last Friday. He added another 55 yards receiving, and his 265 all-purpose yards were the 10th most in program history.
Bell rushed for 948 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, but his previous career high was 20 carries.
"I think he's the same player he's been. He worked hard," Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said. "He's always prepared well and played hard, going back to his freshman year. He's done this for a couple of years, and he's going into his third year. The opportunity presented itself more maybe Friday night and he took advantage of it."
The junior's rushing yards were more than Boise State's total yards (206) and helped him earn a slew of player of the week awards, and for the time being, some early Heisman Trophy hype.
"When I was younger you see the Heisman guys on TV and you're like, 'Man, I want to win that trophy,'" said Bell, who shared carries with Edwin Baker last season. "Now you get the hype and everything about it, you've really just got to put all that aside and really do what you've got to do for the team to win. At the end of the day, if you're not winning you're not going to get the trophy anyways."
If Michigan State is going to remain a favorite for the Big Ten title, it'll need Bell to perform against all opponents, ranked or not. After Central Michigan, the Spartans play three straight at home, including games against No. 22 Notre Dame and No. 14 Ohio State.
"I think what we have to make sure we're not doing is, don't drink the Kool-Aid around here," Dantonio said. "He's always come out and played hard. He's always come out and practiced hard. He's always tried to be a complete football player, so I don't think that's going to change whether he's blocking or catching the ball or running with the football."
The Spartans are making their first trip to Mount Pleasant, Mich. They beat the Chippewas 45-7 at home last season, with Bell running eight times for 81 yards and a career high-tying three TDs.
Dan Enos played quarterback for Michigan State and was an assistant for six seasons under Dantonio before becoming the Chippewas coach in 2010. Central Michigan has struggled as Enos tries to build the program, going 3-9 in each of his first two seasons.
"I talk to Dan whenever the opportunity presents itself. My message to him is it's not easy. You're building a program, there is change, transition, you've just got to keep doing what you believe and things will come to fruition," said Dantonio of his former quarterbacks and running backs coach.
"I'm sure the atmosphere's going to be very exciting up there, and we look forward to our first road game."
The Chippewas beat Southeast Missouri 38-27 in their season opener Aug. 30. Junior Zurlon Tipton set career bests with 180 rushing yards and three touchdowns as Central Michigan totaled 324 yards on the ground and scored the final 14 points of the game.