Grinz on Green Blog: Damion Terry Making Strides at QB
By Steve Grinczel, MSUSpartans.com Online Columnist
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Damion Terry’s entry into any Michigan State game immediately raised the following question: Is he a running quarterback who may pass or a reluctant passer who will probably run?
The fourth-year junior took a major step toward settling the debate – even in his own mind – with the first touchdown pass of his career last Saturday at Illinois.
It was the kind of game-changing play 10th-year head coach Mark Dantonio has been saying quarterbacks have to make, if they want to be considered big-time, ever since he inherited Brian Hoyer as a junior in 2007.
On fourth-and-4, Terry, who replaced injured starter Tyler O’Connor in the fourth quarter, rolled out to his right to evade the pass rush on a play designed to go tight end Josiah Price. However, instead of giving into his gut instinct by trying to run for a first down, Terry continued to scan the field for an open receiver.
“I don’t know what told me to do it,” Terry said. “I had the option to run but I thought (the pass-rusher) was kind of close to me so I didn’t want to try it.”
He finally zeroed in on wideout R.J. Shelton, who made a splendid tip-toe catch just inside the end line for a three-point lead.
“I was going to throw it to Josiah on the over-run but then I saw the safety or someone streaming down and so I kind of pulled back,” Terry said. “I was pointing for someone to just go back into the corner because I was just going to throw it.
“That’s why I double-clutched on it. Then I saw R.J. running (across the back of the end zone) and I thought I could get it to him. That was a great play by him working his feet and body-control.” Unfortunately, the Spartans couldn’t hold the lead in final 2:52, but next time Terry is in a similar situation he’ll be inclined to trust his arm as well as his legs.
“It was (important) for me being known as like a running guy,” Terry said. “People have seen me run so to get my first passing touchdown was huge. That was awesome, especially for R.J., a fourth-year guy in his last year trying to do everything he can to try to carry this team.
“I saw him at the last second and for him to jump up in the back of the end zone and get both feet in was great, and I thank him for that. We didn’t win so I’m not satisfied, but it was definitely a huge boost to my confidence.”
Terry may have felt validated as a passer but quarterbacks coach Brad Salem believed all along that it was only a matter of time before he broke through with a big play with his arm.
“Maybe that was a perception from the outside, or how he thinks people perceive him, but obviously he has a very good ability to throw the football so maybe that brings evidence to himself that he did it in a game,” Salem said. “You see stuff in practices and scrimmages, but obviously it’s big to be able to do in a game.”
Terry completed 6 of 12 passes for 50 yards against the Fighting Illini. How he and O’Connor will be used in Saturday’s game against Rutgers at Spartan Stadium is still to be determined, but Terry will be ready to pull the trigger again regardless.
“You always have to be the guy who’s ready so no changes,” he said. “I’m preparing for the same thing and when the opportunity comes I have to take full advantage of it.”
GoG Notes & Quotes: Highly touted true freshman quarterback Messiah deWeaver traveled and dressed for the Illinois game, but the chances of MSU pulling the red shirt off of him are very slim. Nevertheless, Salem is getting Weaver game-ready just as he did last year with then-true freshman Brian Lewerke, who was momentarily elevated to No. 2 before the regular-season finale against Penn State because of injuries that put three-year starter Connor Cook and Terry’s availability in doubt.
Cook recovered in time to play and Lewerke retained four years of eligibility. Salem has moved deWeaver up the depth chart because Lewerke, who played in four games this year, suffered a season-ending broken leg against Michigan and O’Connor and Terry have both been sidelined by various injuries throughout the course of the season.
DeWeaver can’t help but benefit from being involved in game-prep whether he plays or not.
“He had to get in there more a week ago with our situation so we got him reps and got him prepared,” Salem said. “It was similar to Brian Lewerke last year where he almost really went into the game against Penn State as the back-up. We weren't sure if Connor was going to go at all.
“What it does is it brings urgency, it brings a realization of, ‘Wow, I need to get this now because the moment is here.’ (Messiah) had a very good week of growth last week and was a much different quarterback (Tuesday) just from going through the experience of the week with the travel, the preparation, really trying to wrap his mind around Saturday and, ‘Are you really ready to play in a real game?’ So I think it’s been a really big positive for him.”
After Terry’s go-ahead touchdown pass to Shelton, Illinois drove 75 yards in just four plays and 1:17 for its game-winning score. The Illini began the possession with a 22-yard pass completion and the Spartans were flagged for back-to-back pass interference penalties that moved the ball to the 20-yard line.
Co-defensive coordinator Mike Tressel said too many players are overcompensating on defense and that leads to a deficiency someplace else.
“Yeah, I am (surprised), especially when they’re veteran guys (making mistakes),” Tressel said. “It tells you that they are pressing, because certainly, the mistakes that you see made, not in complex scenarios, aren’t happening on the practice field. There’s a tension right now that we need to be able to work through. It’s football. You’ve played football since you were six-years-old, and you’re really good at it –that’s why you're here at Michigan State.
“You need to relax out there, trust each other and just do our job. We need to be able to keep our cool out there on the field. We need to be able to trust our teammates and know that you don’t have to do their job. Just do your job really well in those situations. I mean there were some busts that quite honestly should never happen. So, in those critical situations, trust yourself, trust your teammates and don’t try to do too much. Then we’ll be all right.”
Since being pressed into duty on defense at Maryland when fifth-year senior middle linebacker Riley Bullough was disqualified for targeting, true freshman Joe Bachie played on special teams against Michigan and Illinois. Bachie had hoped to retain his red shirt but is happy to be getting a head start on 2017 with on-the-job training.
“All year I was kind of in the mix, but we really didn’t want to do it,” he said with regard to using up his freshman year of eligibility. “I mean, if it happened it happened. I was fine with it. It was coach’s decision on what’s best for the team and I got thrown in.”
Bachie had seven tackles against the Terrapins.
“I feel like I did all right, not as great as I could have,” he said. “It’s little things that we looked at in the film room. I sat down with Riley and the coaches and looked at the little things. Young guys are learning, I’m learning, so we’ve got to keep looking up to the old guys and keep moving forward.”
Bachie couldn’t have better mentors than Bullough and outside linebacker Chris Frey, according to Tressel.
“Joe is another guy that fits right into that linebackers group because he’s like Riley and Chris Frey, and those types of guys who just love football, play fast and are willing to do whatever it takes,” Tressel said. “Those guys really study film and he’s probably a little further along than most freshmen would be because he has sat in there and watched film.
“He loves the game and he loves the grind of football, and let’s be real, there’s a grind, especially at this level. Talented guy who might not have been a grinder in high school (where) it might have been easy. And all of a sudden you have to figure out how to deal with the grind. He loves it.”