Picking up right where they left off last season, the Spartan defense stole the show Sunday during MSU’s first jersey scrimmage of training camp by claiming a 74-54 victory over the offense using a modified scoring system.
“Our defensive front is strong,” head coach Mark Dantonio said in a release from the athletics department.
“We have several redshirt freshmen on that second team who look pretty good. I also was impressed with the way our linebackers ran (to the football). Overall, I’m happy with the performance of our defense. Offensively, we have to be able to get into a rhythm and move the ball on a consistent basis. When evaluating things, there’s always a little give and take (between the offense and defense). We definitely got a lot of work done out here today.”
Just as Dantonio said, the defensive team’s effort was led by a group of redshirt freshmen; linebacker Darien Harris notched a team-high nine tackles, while fellow linebacker Ed Davis added six of his own. Sophomore linebacker Taiwan Jones’ seven tackles were also among the noteworthy defensive performances.
Standout junior defensive end William Gholston led the linemen with four tackles, including a two-yard sack. Four different defensive linemen recorded sacks in the scrimmage, which is good news for the Spartans, who look to replace the production of veteran defensive tackles Jerel Worthy and Kevin Pickelman.
Junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell got his first dose of gamelike action in months, after missing the spring game due to injury. Maxwell connected on 16 of his 29 pass attempts for 162 yards. Junior wide receiver Bennie Fowler showed he finally was healthy and ready to make an impact in 2012 by snagging five balls for 55 yards.
“If I’ve said it once this preseason, I’ve said it 100 times: it’s great to see Bennie (Fowler) healthy,” Maxwell said in a release. “He can make plays for us downfield.”
Sophomore tight end Andrew Gleichert caught three passes for 41 yards, while sophomore wide receiver Tony Lippett had three receptions for 34 yards.
Entering preseason camp as the clear-cut starter at running back for the first time in his career, junior Le’Veon Bell gained 49 yards on 12 carries in the two-hour and forty-four-minute scrimmage.
“Le’Veon Bell made a couple of big plays running the football,” Dantonio said. “He’s a great running back, so we know he’s going to make things happen (with the ball in his hands).”
The scrimmage ended on a positive note for the offense, however, as redshirt freshman quarterback Connor Cook, who took the majority of the snaps in the spring game in place of an injured Maxwell, connected with sophomore wide receiver Jeremy Langford — a converted running back — on a 38-yard touchdown pass on the last play from scrimmage.
Cook finished 15-for-25 with 145 yards and a touchdown, while heralded freshman Tyler O’Connor went 6-for-14 for 105 yards and a score.
“No, I’m not satisfied with where we’re at after 10 practices,” Gholston said in a release. “We can always get better. Right now, we’re putting in work, so we can get the desired results this season. We’re going to strive to improve each practice as we prepare for the season opener against Boise State.”