MSU Replacing RB Ringer By Committee
Sept. 6, 2009
TIM MARTIN, The Associated Press
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan State isn't going to replace departed All-American running back Javon Ringer with just one guy.
It might take three or four. Or seven.
Seven Spartan tailbacks combined for 175 rushing yards in Saturday's season-opening 44-3 win over Montana State. Quarterback Keith Nichol added 18 rushing yards, most of them on designed running plays. That's a much different scenario than last year, when Ringer accounted for 97 percent of the team's rushing yards and 76 percent of its carries on his way to one of the best seasons for a tailback in school history.
Ringer has moved on to the NFL's Tennessee Titans, leaving a slew of young and unproven running backs to pick up the slack at Michigan State.
"It's OK as long as we win," Michigan State back Caulton Ray said of the carry-by-committee plan. "We have to get in the rotation, and we're starting to see more guys that can do more things."
Ray was one of three freshman sharing the bulk of Saturday's rushing load for Michigan State (1-0). Ray, who redshirted last season, had 71 yards on 12 carries.
Ray, Baker and Caper rotated throughout the first half.
"What we were trying to do is get those guys touches because none of those guys had ever carried the ball in a college football game," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said.
Ray, who runs exceptionally hard, is the smallest of the three freshmen at 5-foot-9, 195 pounds. Caper (5-11, 215) and Baker (5-9, 200) are part of what may be Michigan State's best recruiting class of the past decade.
All three avoided turnovers and did fairly well in pass protection Saturday.
Michigan State did most of its damage against Montana State (0-1) with the passing game. Kirk Cousins and Nichol were a combined 19-of-35 for 318 yards with five touchdowns, taking advantage of a Montana State secondary that has been thinned by injuries.
Montana State, the first Football Championship Subdivision team that Michigan State has ever faced, was physically dominated by the bigger, deeper Spartans. The Bobcats gained only 160 yards of total offense, including 62 on the ground.
The Bobcats have lost four straight games to Football Bowl Subdivision teams since upsetting Colorado in 2006. But the experience against a team from the NCAA's top division should help Montana State in Big Sky Conference play later this season.
Montana State didn't have any turnovers and except for a few blown coverages in the secondary didn't make major mental mistakes.
"I thought we played a solid game," Montana State coach Rob Ash said. "We weren't able to conclude drives on either side of the ball today (Saturday) like we expect to later on."
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