April 11, 1998
EAST LANSING, Mich. - With temperatures in the low-60s, Michigan State fourth-year head football coach Nick Saban sent his team through a 137-play scrimmage Saturday to conclude the second week of spring practice.
The two-and-a-half hour workout featured a 60-play "controlled" scrimmage plus an additional five periods dedicated to special situations, including third down, red area, goal line, coming out of the end zone and two-minute drill.
"We really like to use the first spring scrimmage as a barometer to determine where we are as a team after eight practices," Saban said. "The scrimmage gives us an opportunity to evaluate personnel under game conditions. And it helps us identify the players who can play winning football.
"I'm not disappointed at all with the way things went today. I saw some good things on both sides of the football and a lot of guys made plays. The No. 1 offense scored on two of its first three possessions but later, it struggled during some of the special situations. The No. 1 defense certainly held the upper hand during the special situation drills."
No. 1 quarterback Bill Burke completed 17-of-35 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns. Burke hit Gari Scott with a 38-yard TD strike on the opening series. During a two-minute drill, he hooked up with Plaxico Burress for a 35-yard scoring play as Burress outjumped three defenders for the Hail Mary pass.
Lavaile Richardson had a scrimmage-high four receptions for 42 yards while Burress (91 yards) and Scott (46 yards) had three catches each. Leroy McFadden led all rushers with 47 yards on eight carries, including a 16-yard TD run.
Defensive end Robaire Smith and outside linebacker Courtney Ledyard each provided three sacks while outside linebacker T.J. Turner had two sacks to go along with an interception. The Spartan defense came up with a total of six interceptions, including three by strong safety Aric Morris.
"We must do a better job of providing pass protection," Saban said. "It takes longer for young offensive linemen to develop the technique and discipline necessary to become good pass blockers. Not all of the sacks today were the result of poor execution because we have some pretty talented pass rushers in Robaire Smith, Courtney Ledyard and Robert Newkirk."
Michigan State has practices scheduled for Monday, Wednesday and Friday next week, plus its second scrimmage Saturday, April 18. All workouts until the spring game are closed to the general public.
MSU concludes spring drills with the annual Green-White intrasquad game Saturday, April 25 at 1 p.m. in Spartan Stadium. Admission is free.