EAST LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan State football team held its first jersey scrimmage of spring practice Friday afternoon in Spartan Stadium. Utilizing a modified scoring system, the defense held off the offense, 25-23, in a “situational” scrimmage.
The Spartans played two full quarters and ran 102 plays in the two-hour scrimmage. Needing 25 points for the victory, the offense nearly came away with the win, but Kevin Cronin’s 47-yard field-goal attempt fell short in the final seconds.
The passing game was emphasized on offense, as all three quarterbacks combined to throw 55 passes for 401 yards and four touchdowns.
Senior quarterback Andrew Maxwell led the way, completing 17-of-27 passes for 187 yards and three touchdowns, including two TD strikes to Keith Mumphery (18 and 4 yards). He also connected on a 13-yard score to AJ Troup.
Sophomore QB Connor Cook was 11-of-18 for 73 yards and one interception.
Red-shirt freshman quarterback Tyler O’Connor hit 6-of-10 passes of 141 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown to Troup and a 55-yard completion to red-shirt freshman Monty Madaris.
MSU’s three primary tailbacks (Nick Hill, Jeremy Langford and Nick Tompkins) combined for 23 rushes.
The defense was in control during the first quarter and kept the offense off the scoreboard; however, the offense threatened to score with a red-zone opportunity late in the quarter as O’Connor hit Madaris for a 55-yard reception that set up a first-and-goal from the 10. On third-and-goal from the 1, junior defensive tackle James Kittredge broke up a pass, and red-shirt freshman linebacker Riley Bullough completed the goal-line stand by stopping Tompkins short of the end zone on fourth down.
Early in the second quarter, the defense again came up with big plays to prevent a potential scoring drive. On second-and-9 from the 11, junior defensive end Marcus Rush sacked Maxwell for a loss of 13 yards. Pushed back to the 24-yard line, Maxwell attempted a pass to the end zone, but it was broken up by senior linebacker Max Bullough, which forced a 42-yard field-goal attempt by Cronin. Rush proceeded to block the field goal for his second impact play of the drive as the offense came away empty.
The offense started to click midway through the second quarter, as Maxwell found Mumphery in the end zone for an 18-yard strike.
After a three-and-out series, Maxwell capped a seven-play, 75-yard drive with a 4-yard TD pass to Mumphery. Maxwell was 7-of-10 passing for 76 yards on the drive, including three completions to Tony Lippett for 41 yards and two passes to Fowler for 31 yards. Hill’s two-point conversion run pushed the offense’s total to 17 points.
Lippett (74 yards), Mumphery (55 yards) and Fowler (50 yards) each had five catches in the scrimmage.
Needing a touchdown and two-point conversion to reach the 25-point total, O’Connor connected on a 76-yard scoring strike to AJ Troup, but on the two-point conversion, Jeremy Langford was stopped by Darien Harris, keeping the offense at 23 points.
Cook led the Spartans on the final drive of the game from the offense’s 25-yard line with 1:26 remaining. He started the drive with a 22-yard completion to Mumphery, and proceeded to guide the Spartans all the way to the defense’s 30-yard line with seven seconds left on the clock. Cook was 6-of-8 for 45 yards on the drive. Lining up for the game-winning field goal, Cronin’s 47-yard attempt came up short, securing the 25-23 victory for the defense.
Sophomore cornerback Trae Waynes led the defense with nine tackles. On the final drive, he recorded two tackles, a pass break-up and a quarterback hurry.
Senior linebacker Kyler Elsworth posted six stops, including one for a 1-yard loss, two pass break-ups and a quarterback hurry, while junior safety Kurtis Drummond made five tackles.
Max Bullough played a solid all-around game with four tackles, three quarterback hurries and a pass break-up. Senior linebacker/safety Jairus Jones recorded four tackles, including two for losses (2 yards), and had a 2-yard interception.
Sophomore defensive end Shilique Calhoun tallied two tackles for loss (8 yards) with a 6-yard sack.
Michigan State will resume practice on Tuesday, April 9.
Second Spring Scrimmage Recap
Time elapsed: 2:00 (102 total plays)
Passing: Andrew Maxwell 17-of-27 for 187 yards and three touchdowns (13 yards to AJ Troup; 18 and 4 yards to Keith Mumphery); Tyler O’Connor 6-of-10 for 141 yards and one touchdown (76 yards to AJ Troup); Connor Cook 11-of-18 for 73 yards and one interception.
Receiving: Tony Lippett 5-74; Keith Mumphery 5-55 (2 TDs); Bennie Fowler 5-50; AJ Troup 3-97 (2 TDs).
Defense (solos-assists-total): Trae Waynes 3-6-9 including two quarterback hurries and one pass break-up; Kyler Elsworth 1-5-6 including one tackle for loss (1 yard), two pass break-ups and one quarterback hurry; Kurtis Drummond 2-3-5; Max Bullough 1-3-4 including one tackle for loss (3 yards), one pass break-up and three quarterback hurries; Jairus Jones 2-2-4 including two tackles for loss (2 yards) and a 2-yard interception; Shilique Calhoun 2-0-2 including two tackles for loss (8 yards) and a 6-yard sack.
Mark Dantonio post-scrimmage quotes:
“The quarterbacks were live, so we tried to create as many game-like situations as possible. Offensively, we’ve got to run the ball more effectively. Our defense is a little bit ahead (of the offense) in some ways. We pressured the quarterback and did a lot of really good things, but towards the end, the offense did some good things and hit some big plays in 2-minute situations.
“Overall, it was a good scrimmage. I don’t know how we do it, but every time we scrimmage, it seems to come down to the last play, so that makes it exciting. I was pleased with the energy and intensity on both sides of the ball. The defense played well early and the offense played well down the stretch. The guys played hard and continued to compete during the 102-play scrimmage.
“Offensively, the name of the game is to create explosive plays and to limit turnovers. We turned the ball over only once during the entire scrimmage, so that’s a positive.
“The offense came alive down the stretch, but we need consistency on that side of the ball. Keith Mumphery, Tony Lippett and Bennie Fowler produced some big plays, and DeAnthony Arnett had a nice catch on the final drive.
“Trae Waynes is having a great spring, and he’s a guy who will be a fixture in our secondary for three more years. Max Bullough is in his fourth year in our system, so he knows the defense inside and out. Max does a great job of diagnosing things. Shilique Calhoun is a big, quick and physical defensive end, so he’s a playmaker for us. All three of those guys made plays today.
“Overall, our defense played extremely well throughout most of the scrimmage. We gave up a couple of big plays at the end of the game, and we simply can’t do that. As we saw last year, we must learn to close out games. We will play better in those game-ending situations.”
Senior quarterback Andrew Maxwell:
“Obviously, we’d like to avoid the slow start that we had, but we didn’t run it well and didn’t throw it well early in the scrimmage. So we put ourselves in a hole early, but there’s a reason we’ve placed an emphasis on finishing this spring. It’s encouraging to finish the way we did today, especially in pressure situations like the 2-minute drills near the end.
“The experience of our receivers came into play during the 2-minute drive. Tony Lippett made three huge catches just to keep the drive alive, and Keith Mumphery made the TD grab. Bennie Fowler also contributed some big plays, so with a year under their belts, those guys are stepping up to make big plays.
“Over these last two weeks of spring ball, we want to continue to improve. We’ve made a lot of progress since the first spring practice. We’ll throw in this scrimmage film and see that we have a lot to clean up, but if we can learn from the mistakes and improve in every aspect of our game before next week’s scrimmage, it will be a win for us.
“Trae Waynes has really been impressive this spring. Not only can he cover really well, but he’s also very physical and plays the run well. A couple of times today, Trae made great tackles in the open field when he had to fend off a block. So we’re looking for him to become a big playmaker for us this year.
“Max Bullough made plays all over the field today, but that’s when you come to expect from him. He’s a guy with a high motor, so you know he’s going 100 miles an hour on every play. Max is definitely a guy you have to account for and know where he is on the field before every play. That’s what makes him a special player.”