Offense carves up Youngstown State for 55-17 win
State News football reporters Dillon Davis and Stephen Brooks discuss the success of MSU’s offense in 55-17 victory over Youngstown State.
It was a day of firsts for the MSU football program on Saturday in a 55-17 blowout win against Youngstown State.
The Spartans (3-0 overall) scored their first passing touchdown of the year. They put up 55 points for the first time since 2011. Sophomore defensive end Shilique Calhoun didn’t score for the first time in 2013. And, most importantly, MSU showed signs of life offensively for the first time in a long while.
Entering the game with the worst yards-per-pass average in the nation, MSU exploded for 547 total yards — 270 of which came through the air — against the Penguins, a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
“I thought we had a sense of urgency,” head coach Mark Dantonio said. “I thought we needed to play well offensively because we had not to level that I think we’re capable of.”
Sophomore Connor Cook started at quarterback for the second week in a row and threw for 202 yards and four touchdowns while completing 15 of his 22 passes. He became the first Spartan quarterback to throw for four touchdowns since Brian Hoyer in 2007, and all four scores came in the first half. Redshirt freshman Tyler O’Connor took the wheel for the rest of the game about five minutes into the third quarter.
Dantonio said true freshman Damion Terry was not ready to see game action on Saturday after saying Terry would be groomed as the backup throughout the week on Tuesday.
Without the quarterback-switching carousel that headlined the first two games, Cook was able to get MSU in a rhythm and led the Spartans to touchdowns on their first three possessions — a 3-yard run by junior running back Jeremy Langford, a 13-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Andre Sims Jr. and a 12-yard toss to sophomore fullback Trevon Pendleton.
MSU had just two offensive touchdowns — both on the ground — through its first two games.
“I thought I did a lot better than the first two weeks,” Cook said. “It’s hard to get into a rhythm when you are using two other quarterbacks in week one, and week two same thing. But I felt I got into a rhythm early and it wasn’t just me — guys were making plays.”
Youngstown State (2-1) found the end zone for the first time on a 5-yard run from Martin Ruiz, which made it a 21-10 game with 4:57 remaining in the second quarter.
On the Penguins’ next possession, Ruiz fumbled and Calhoun recovered but unlike the last two games, he didn’t find a way to take it to the house. MSU took over on Youngstown State’s 24-yard line and Cook promptly threw a touchdown strike to sophomore wide receiver Macgarrett Kings Jr. to give MSU a 28-10 advantage.
Kings’ first career touchdown began a run of 28 unanswered points, highlighted by a 17-yard catch-and-run from senior receiver Bennie Fowler, as the Spartans distanced themselves from the Penguins. He led MSU with four catches for 61 yards while junior Tony Lippett had 41 yards on four catches and sophomore Aaron Burbridge caught three balls for 44 yards.
“The most impressive thing to me was that we made those 50-50 catches,” Dantonio said. “Those catches that are difficult to make. We made them in crowds with people hanging on you.”
Ruiz took a pass 34 yards for a score with 1:36 left in the third quarter to break MSU’s scoring marathon and put the score at 49-17. With O’Connor at the helm, the Spartans tried to bleed the clock in the final period and added a pair of field goals from senior kicker Kevin Muma.
Although the student section started its “We want Terry” chant before MSU even ran a single play, the Spartans finally got the offensive showing they anticipated seeing the first two weeks. Cook will move forward as the starter with a matchup against Notre Dame looming next week, Dantonio said.
“But that’s just the start because certainly we have a long way to go and a long season in front of us so hopefully it’s just the beginning,” said Dave Warner, co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach.