April 4, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Tyler O'Connor's 9-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Burbridge in the second-to-final series lifted the offense past the defense, 27-25, Friday afternoon as the Michigan State football team held its first jersey scrimmage of spring practice inside the Duffy Daugherty Football Building.
The Spartans ran 125 total plays in the two-hour scrimmage, including special teams.
The defense was spotted 25 points in the scrimmage and nearly held on for the win until O'Connor directed a nine-play, 50-yard touchdown drive to put the offense on top. With the offense trailing 25-20, O'Connor's 5-yard run on third-and-3 from the 14-yard line set up the game-winning TD pass to Burbridge on first-and-goal.
The defense had one final chance to win the scrimmage, but Connor Cook's 15-yard pass to Trevon Pendleton sealed the victory, as the offense ran out the clock following the first down to clinch the victory.
Cook led the offense by completing 15-of-21 passes for 187 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, while O'Connor was 10-of-15 passing for 132 yards and one touchdown.
DeAnthony Arnett led the wide receivers with five catches for 67 yards, including an 8-yard TD grab from Cook. R.J. Shelton had four receptions for 23 yards, and Burbridge had three catches for 36 yards, including the game-winning score.
Jeremy Langford scored on a 38-yard screen pass from Cook and accounted for 66 all-purpose yards (three rushes for 15 yards; three receptions for 51 yards). Nick Hill paced the ground game with 53 yards on 10 carries, including a scrimmage-long 30-yard gain as well as a 5-yard TD run.
Defensively, the Spartans displayed an impressive pass rush with eight sacks, led by returning All-American Shilique Calhoun, who collected two sacks (13 yards) and three stops overall.
Freshman linebacker Chris Frey, an early enrollee, produced five tackles, including three for losses (20 yards) and two sacks (13 yards) while seeing time on the No. 2 defense.
First-team All-Big Ten safety Kurtis Drummond tied for the team lead with six tackles, including a 9-yard loss, and also picked off a Cook pass on the third series. Red-shirt freshman safety Jalyn Powell also had six stops and forced a fumble.
On special teams, sophomore kicker Michael Geiger connected on 5-of-6 field goals during third-down situations, and also hit a 52-yarder during the scrimmage.
The offense opened the scrimmage with a five-play, 75-yard drive, as Cook went 3-for-3 passing for 62 yards, capped off by the 38-yard screen pass to Langford for the score.
The defense countered by stopping the offense on the next four possessions, including Drummond's interception, which made the score 25-4.
The offense got back on the board with a 10-play, 41-yard drive led by Cook that set up Geiger's 52-yard field goal. The defense's lead was trimmed to 25-13 on the next series as O'Connor directed his first scoring march with a six-play, 70-drive, capped by a 5-yard TD run by Hill. O'Connor completed all three of his passes for 62 yards on the drive.
Back-to-back sacks by Calhoun and Riley Bullough ended the next two series, as the defense maintained its 12-point lead. After four consecutive empty possessions following Hill's touchdown, the offense cut the lead to 25-20 as Arnett caught an 8-yard TD pass from Cook on third-and-goal.
Although the defense stopped O'Connor on the next possession, he had a second chance to take the lead and delivered with the game-winning, 50-yard drive.
Michigan State will return for its seventh practice of the spring on Tuesday.
First Spring Scrimmage Recap
Time elapsed: 2:00 (125 total plays)
Passing: Connor Cook 15-of-21 for 187 yards, two touchdowns (38 yards to Jeremy Langford, 8 yards to DeAnthony Arnett) and one interception; Tyler O'Connor 10-of-15 for 132 yards and one touchdown (9 yards to Aaron Burbridge).
Rushing: Nick Hill 10-53 (1 TD).
Defense (solos-assists-total): Kurtis Drummond 3-3-6 including a 9-yard tackle for loss and one interception; Jalyn Powell 3-3-6 including a forced fumble; Chris Frey 5-0-5 including three tackles for loss (20 yards) and two sacks (13 yards); Riley Bullough 5-0-5 including a 5-yard sack; RJ Williamson 3-2-5 including a 2-yard loss; Shilique Calhoun 3-0-3 including two sacks (13 yards).
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio:
"Depends on what side you're rooting for sometimes, but the offense won the scrimmage. (The skill players) made some big plays. (Connor) Cook played very well and made some throws. There's no question that we have to continue to get better, but there's also no question that we've got some guys that can make some plays.
"It's always going to go down to the wire with this format. We made it as game-like as possible with the full officiating crew. We've got to clean up the execution, but our guys answered the bell. They played hard and they played fast. Guys made some plays on both sides of the football. I was impressed with certain guys on the field. In particular, I was pleased with our pass rush. We're young at linebacker because we've got some guys dinged up who didn't play, and we're still looking for some guys to emerge in the secondary. Offensively, we've got good skill (position players).
"We're always trying to strive for perfection, and we'll work towards that was we move forward. It usually doesn't happen in scrimmages because the offense or defense normally has the upper hand. What we're trying to do over the next three weeks is solidify positions one play at a time, only player at a time. Some guys have solidified their position in the lineup based on last year while other guys are positioning themselves (for playing time) in 2014."
Junior quarterback Connor Cook:
"I thought it was a pretty balanced scrimmage because the defense did really well and the offense played well too. Obviously at this point in the spring, the defense is always ahead of the offense, but I feel like from where we were through the first five practices, the offense made a jump by winning this scrimmage. You saw guys making plays all over the field.
"Over these next three weeks, I mainly want to work on my accuracy. Through the first five practices, I wasn't as accurate as I wanted to be and threw some interceptions. So my focus is to improve on my accuracy and to throw the ball with some conviction.
"As a unit, we'll concentrate on improving our execution. We've got to set up along the offensive line and avoid having guys jump offside. I also have to work on getting the play in quicker, so we don't get a delay of game penalty. The biggest thing is developing a sense of urgency to get to the line of scrimmage.
"The coaches have really instilled a hunger in us. You saw it in the players during our offseason program. We've talked a lot about remaining hungry and humble. During spring break, guys said that a lot of people approached them and congratulated them on the Big Ten and Rose Bowl Championships. Honestly, we're kind of tired of hearing about last year. We want to make new memories this year. We have to push 2013 aside; it's in the past. We want to focus on winning championships in 2014."