Offense Rallies to Win Second Spring Jersey Scrimmage, 38-37
Junior quarterback Connor Cook completes 24-of-38 passes for 361 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions to lead the offense.
April 12, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Nick Hill's 3-yard touchdown run on the final series pushed the offense past the defense, 38-37, as the Michigan State football team held its second spring jersey scrimmage Saturday on the outdoor practice fields behind the Duffy Daugherty Football Building.
Under sunny skies and temperatures reaching 70 degrees, the Spartans ran 157 total plays in the two-hour, 30-minute scrimmage, including special teams.
Connor Cook led the way for the offense, completing 24-of-38 passes for 361 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He connected on several big plays, including a 75-yard touchdown pass to R.J. Shelton and a 51-yard touchdown pass on a screen to Jeremy Langford.
The defense was spotted 28 points in the scrimmage and led the entire way until the final play of the day. Cook directed the game-winning 10-play, 75-yard drive in a two-minute drill situation, capped by Hill's 3-yard TD run on first-and-goal. Cook was 6-of-8 passing for 75 yards on the scoring march; the key play was a 34-yard pass to DeAnthony Arnett on the sideline that gave the offense first-and-goal. Hill punched in the game-winning run with 25.5 seconds remaining on the clock in the two-minute drill that tied it at 37, and Michael Geiger made the go-ahead point-after attempt to make the final 38-37.
The offense also scored a late game-winning touchdown in the first scrimmage during its 27-25 victory last Friday.
Aaron Burbridge led the receiving corps with six receptions for 64 yards, while Arnett had five catches for 63 yards.
Shelton, who had a 75-yard touchdown reception from Cook and a 35-yard reception from Damion Terry, racked up 132 receiving yards on just four catches. Shelton finished with 140 all-purpose yards and accounted for two scores, as he also had 8 rushing yards, including a 5-yard TD run.
Langford collected 94 all-purpose yards (seven carries for 31 yards; four receptions for 63 yards).
For the second-straight scrimmage, Nick Hill paced the ground game with 64 yards on seven carries (9.1 avg.), including two touchdowns (45 and 3 yards). Gerald Holmes had 10 carries for 51 yards (5.1 avg.).
Defensively, Jalyn Powell produced a scrimmage-high eight tackles, while Lawrence Thomas (4-3) and Jon Reschke (3-4) each posted seven stops. Thomas also had a 5-yard tackle for loss. Kurtis Drummond picked off a Cook pass for the second consecutive week to go along with six tackles, and Demetrious Cox also had six stops. On the defensive line, Marcus Rush had six tackles, including a 7-yard loss, while Demetrius Cooper had four tackles, including two for losses (11 yards) and one sack (6 yards).
On special teams, Geiger connected on 5-of-6 field-goal attempts during third-down situations, and also hit a 32-yarder during the scrimmage.
Following third-down and field-goal situations, the offense opened the scrimmage with a 12-play, 60-yard drive, as Cook went 3-for-6 passing for 50 yards, capped off by a 32-yard Geiger field goal.
The defense maintained its 28-3 lead for the next three series until Cook's 51-yard screen pass to Langford went for a touchdown to cut the lead to 28-10.
After the long pass play, the defense forced two-straight three-and-outs, then took a 35-10 advantage as Riley Bullough intercepted a Cook pass and went the distance for a 63-yard touchdown return. Bullough also had three tackles in the scrimmage, including a 4-yard loss.
The defense continued its strong momentum by keeping the offense off the board for the next five series. Drummond intercepted a Cook screen pass to give the defense a 37-10 lead, but on the very next play, Cook found Shelton down the middle of the field for a 75-yard touchdown pass, cutting the score to 37-17.
Two series later, with the score still at 37-17 and the offense looking to stage a comeback, Hill busted out a 45-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-inches to cut the margin to 37-24.
On the next series, Terry directed a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, capped off by a 5-yard run by Shelton. Holmes contributed 21 rushing yards on the drive, and Terry also had a 35-yard pass to Shelton and a 9-yard strike to Josiah Price.
The score remained 37-31 until the final drive, as Cook completed the comeback in a two-minute situation with a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown march.
Michigan State will return for its 11th practice of the spring on Tuesday.
Second Spring Scrimmage Recap
Time elapsed: 2:30 (157 total plays)
Defense (solos-assists-total): Jalyn Powell 6-2-8; Lawrence Thomas 4-3-7 including one tackle for loss (5 yards); Jon Reschke 3-4-7; Kurtis Drummond 3-3-6 including one interception; Marcus Rush 4-2-6 including one tackle for loss (7 yards); Demetrious Cox 4-2-6; Demetrius Cooper 2-2-4 including two tackles for loss (11 yards) and one sack (6 yards); Riley Bullough 3-0-3 including a 63-yard interception return for a touchdown and one tackle for loss (4 yards).
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio:
"I thought our defense was playing well, but then we gave up a couple of big (scoring) plays. The defense had a big play itself with a pick (by Riley Bullough) for a touchdown and another big turnover on a great interception by (Kurtis) Drummond. We tried to make it as game-like as we can by having two of our quarterbacks - Damion Terry and Tyler O'Connor - live. It's more real when you do that. We'll have to look at the tape, but there were good things on both sides of the ball.
"(Connor) Cook for the most part played very, very well. He dropped that one in there (to DeAnthony Arnett) during the 2-minute situation (to set up the game-winning touchdown).
"DeAnthony Arnett continues to have a good spring. RJ (Shelton) is a football player, and he's going to make plays for us.
"We ran the ball a little bit. (Jeremy) Langford had a big play (on a screen pass) for a touchdown. R.J. (Shelton) hit on two big plays in the passing game. We also got a big play from DeAnthony Arnett near the end of the game. We're deep at wide receiver, and we've got some big-play wide receivers.
"The quarterback play from (Connor) Cook was very good. The other two quarterbacks (Tyler O'Connor and Damion Terry) are coming. They're certainly in the hunt (for playing time) because they can make plays.
"(Lawrence Thomas) LT is a force in there. He can play. He's a big-body guy that can run. Remember, he missed last spring and he missed last fall camp, so this is the first time in over a year that he's healthy enough to play day in and day out. LT has made every practice, so that's been a positive thing.
"Next week, we're going to work on certain situations that we haven't been able to accomplish in the spring scrimmages thus far. We'll get that work done on Tuesday and Thursday. We'll go live some next week and continue the drill work."
Quarterback Connor Cook:
"You've got R.J. (Shelton) making big plays. DeAnthony (Arnett) made an amazing grab on the sideline down there (to set up Nick Hill's game-winning touchdown run). (Jeremy Langford) J-Lang turned a screen into a long touchdown. As a quarterback, it's just nice to see not just one guy making plays on the field. Pretty much everyone on the entire offense is selling out and making big plays."
(On DeAnthony Arnett) "He's made a lot of progress (this spring). It's more that he's not thinking. Last year, he was kind of new and out there, you could tell he was thinking (too much). Now, he's just out here playing. It's like backyard football; he's just reacting. It's so good to see DeAnthony making progress because he can be one heck of a player."
(On R.J. Shelton) "We used him a lot last year ... almost like a running back. He made multiple great catches (in today's scrimmage), including one long touchdown catch. He's really emerging as a receiver now. Last year as a true freshman, you saw glimpses of his playmaking ability."
(On the final two weeks of spring ball) "We want to keep progressing as an offense. I'm not focusing so much on what I can do to get better but more on what we can do as an offense to get better. We will attempt to be perfect. I will focus on not throwing interceptions; making smart decisions and getting the ball into our playmakers' hands."
Safety Kurtis Drummond:
(On big plays being the difference in the second spring scrimmage) "We talk all the time about eliminating big plays. That's one thing we've got to continue to work on this spring. (Limiting explosive plays) That's something we've been able to do the last few years. We've also done a good job of limiting long, scoring drives. We've really got to focus on not giving up the big plays because it causes teams to try and put long drives together, and that's difficult to do against our defense."
(On Riley Bullough's development at linebacker) "Riley (Bullough) is a great player. You already know that he comes from a great family line. He was just born a playmaker. He's just an athlete and an instinctive player. He made a great play at a great time for us (this afternoon)."
(On forcing turnovers) "It's something we'll continue to emphasize. It was something we were able to do last year as a defense. We did a great job last year with fourth-down stops and getting the ball back for our offense. It's definitely something we need to improve on heading into summer (preseason) camp."
(On Lawrence Thomas) "LT is an animal. Having him healthy makes me feel more comfortable because we have an explosive D-line. I'm really confident that offensive lines can't really block our D-line. Having guys like LT make it a lot easier to cover (down field) because our guys up front aren't giving quarterbacks time (to throw the football)."
(On the final two weeks of spring practice) "I want to continue to work on my leadership skills, bringing guys along with me. I also want to work on my footwork more. As a team, the defense is going to be more focused on bringing the `Dawgs' out every day. We want to be that physical, run-stopping, nasty defense. As a team, we also want to continue to grow our chemistry, so everybody is moving in the same direction with the same purpose."