April 13, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Under mostly cloudy skies and temperatures in the upper-30s, the Michigan State football team held its second scrimmage of spring practice Saturday in Spartan Stadium. Needing more than 26 points to come away with the victory, the offense defeated the defense, 28-26, as Nick Hill capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive with a 7-yard TD run with just over a minute remaining in the "situational" scrimmage that utilized a modified scoring system.
The Spartans played two full quarters and ran 123 plays in the two-hour scrimmage. Senior quarterback Andrew Maxwell was efficient for the offense, completing 14-of-18 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Connor Cook was 4-of-11 for 66 yards, while red-shirt freshman Tyler O'Connor was 3-of-9 for 29 yards. O'Connor also added 15 yards on the ground on three attempts.
Michigan State showed improvements in the running game, as red-shirt freshman Riley Bullough and juniors Nick Hill and Jeremy Langford combined for 104 yards rushing. Bullough, who also saw snaps at linebacker during the scrimmage, led the offense with 43 yards rushing on 11 carries, including a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs. Hill collected 33 yards on 12 attempts and provided the game-winning 7-yard TD run, while Langford tallied 28 yards on six carries.
Senior Bennie Fowler led all receivers with four catches for 67 yards, while sophomore AJ Troup (31 yards), junior Tony Lippett (30 yards) and junior DeAnthony Arnett (29 yards) each had three receptions.
Defensively, safeties Kurtis Drummond and RJ Williamson and senior linebacker Jairus Jones shared the team lead with seven tackles apiece. Sophomore defensive end Joel Heath had six stops, including a 4-yard sack and a quarterback hurry.
The offense threatened to score on its first possession, as Maxwell's 41-yard completion to Fowler gave the Spartans first-and-10 from the 26-yard line, but red-shirt freshman Kevin Cronin missed on a 44-yard field-goal attempt.
On the second possession, the defense forced a turnover to keep the offense scoreless. Following back-to-back first-down completions from O'Connor to Arnett, senior defensive end Denzel Drone forced a fumble and Lawrence Thomas recovered, ending the drive for the offense.
The offense responded on its fourth drive, going 45 yards on 11 plays, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Bullough on fourth-and-goal. Maxwell was 5-of-6 passing for 21 yards on the drive.
After three consecutive stops by the defense, the offense took advantage of a red-zone situation on first-and-10 from the 20 as Bullough carried the ball four-straight times on the touchdrive drive. His 1-yard score on third-and-goal, followed by Cronin's extra-point attempt, pushed the offense's total to 14 points. Two possessions later, Maxwell found Troup in the end zone for a 12-yard TD strike, trimming the offense's deficit to 26-21.
A week after the defense came away with a last-second victory in the first scrimmage, this time it was the offense that made the plays down the stretch to pull out the win.
With under four minutes remaining, Maxwell led the offense on the game-winning drive that covered 75 yards on 10 plays.
On fourth-and-4 from the offense's own 31-yard line, Maxwell kept the drive alive with a 7-yard completion to Tony Lippett.
Maxwell also found Fowler for a first down on the drive that placed the offense on the defense's 36-yard line. After a holding penalty and an incomplete pass, the offense took advantage of a pass interference call that pushed the ball to the 31-yard line. Maxwell then found Lippett for a 24-yard completion to the 7 that set up Hill's game-winning touchdown run with just over a minute left on the clock.
Maxwell was 3-of-5 passing for 42 yards on the final drive.
Prior to the offense and defense taking center stage in the scrimmage, the Spartans worked on field-goal situations, and made all 10 of their field-goal attempts. Cronin was 6-for-6, including a long of 42 yards, while Kevin Muma was 4-for-4 with a long of 44 yards.
After the scrimmage, the Michigan State football program hosted its annual women's clinic in the Skandalaris Center and the Duffy Daugherty Building.
Michigan State will begin its final week of spring practice on Tuesday, April 16. The annual Green-White spring game is set for Saturday, April 20 at 2:30 p.m. in Spartan Stadium. Admission is free.
Second Spring Scrimmage Recap
Time elapsed: 2:00 (123 total plays)
Defense (solos-assists-total): Kurtis Drummond 3-4-7; RJ Williamson 2-5-7; Jairus Jones 1-6-7; Joel Heath 6-1-7 including a 4-yard sack and a quarterback hurry; Taiwan Jones 1-5-6; Kyler Elsworth 2-3-5 and one quarterback hurry; Max Bullough 1-4-5 and one quarterback hurry; Denzel Drone 1-2-3 including a 6-yard tackle for loss and a forced fumble.
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio:
"The offense played better and we ran the ball a little bit more effectively. I thought putting Riley Bullough at tailback complemented the other guys, Nick Hill and Jeremy Langford. The tailbacks did some positive things, including Nick Tompkins who made some plays out there as well.
"Andrew Maxwell was sharp, and he took some hits. I sort of hold my breath a little bit because by keeping the quarterbacks live, they have to create (plays). Andrew took a big-time hit by Ezra Robinson, but he got up and played right through it. He took the team down the field and scored that same series. That was about as game-like a situation as one could make it.
"The offense moved the ball a little bit and had some big plays today. The play calls were good as well. It was a high energy, high intensity scrimmage. It got a little chippy out here at times because guys played on edge and each side played to win. Both sides really competed.
"The defense remains impressive. We have guys that will run and hit.
"Joel Heath is a very good player for us. He's a lot like Will Gholston in terms of his size and motor. So he's going to have an opportunity to show those types of things next season.
"We'll be in shells these next two practices (Tuesday and Thursday). The No. 1 goal is to remain healthy (in this final week of spring practice), and the second thing is to continue to improve. If we can do those things over the last three practices, it's going to be good for our football team. The chemistry is very good and the guys have been resilient."
Michigan State co-offensive coordinator/running backs coach Dave Warner:
"Certainly we were better (offensively) than we were last week. It always starts up front, and the run game was better than it was last week. If we're able to run the football, it certainly helps everything sort of come together. The guys up front played pretty well and gave us a chance there (to win it) at the end. Andrew Maxwell and a pile of guys pulled through with the last drive.
"The toughness of Andrew Maxwell has never been a question. You look at last year and he went through a whole season and got beat around pretty good. He played the last regular-season game (at Minnesota) with a very badly bruised elbow. Sometimes, we take his toughness for granted. He sucked it up (after the hit on the final drive) and did a great job.
"Riley Bullough has made a quick transition because he's only had a couple of practices at tailback. The idea heading into today's scrimmage was to try and limit the (play) calls with him in there. We wanted to make sure that he knew what he was doing. I sort of lost track and just threw the whole offense at him, and he did good. He's a smart kid, so he learns quickly. The quarterbacks in there helped him out a little bit too. So the bottom line is that he was running plays in there that we haven't worked on before. So taking that all into account, he really did a great job.
"Tuesday will be a pretty good practice for us, and then Thursday will start winding down in preparation for the final scrimmage on Saturday. We've got a couple of things we want to install yet, so we can put the finishing touches on our offensive package. Next week, it's really about polishing up some things from today's scrimmage and correcting the mistakes. We want to conclude spring practice feeling good about our offense."