After a week of praising the offense, it was the MSU defense that stole the show with a 33-27 victory in the second jersey scrimmage on Friday.
The scrimmage went 124 plays with a modified scoring system that gave the defense 27 points to start the scrimmage. The offense had an opportunity to steal the victory after junior quarterback Connor Cook led the unit on a 53 yard drive to the 23-yard-line. But four straight incompletions by Cook ended the scrimmage, giving the defense the victory.
MSU Football Head Coach Mark Dantonio was pleased with the defense’s effort after losing the first scrimmage last week.
"It was a hard-hitting scrimmage,” Dantonio said in a release. “The first-team defense performed pretty solid and limited the number of big plays. The defense tackled pretty well and guys made plays on the ball down the field.”
Junior outside linebacker Darien Harris led the defense with a stellar performance, racking up six tackles, one for a two-yard loss and an interception.
Younger players battling for playing time in the fall also made their mark in Friday’s scrimmage. Defensive backs freshman Montae Nicholson and sophomore Jermaine Edmondson led the team with seven tackles and a pass breakup each.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Jon Reschke and sophomore linebacker Riley Bullough also had impressive days as they battle for playing time. Bullough finished with six tackles while Reschke had five, as both caught Dantonio’s eye.
"Jon Reschke made some plays, and Riley Bullough was solid as well,” Dantonio said. “Both of those guys play with a lot of enthusiasm and up-tempo. They're both pushing (for playing time), and they're both going to play. It's sort of a linebacker group by committee right now, which is a positive thing because they're young players. They're good athletes, who play with a lot of emotion.”
Despite coming up short late, the offensive side of the ball also saw some good production out of guys in position battles. Cook finished the day 14-of-28 for 175 yards and one interception, but it was the two guys behind him battling for the No. 2 spot that experienced more success.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Damion Terry went 6-of-7 for 105 yards and two touchdowns, and sophomore quarterback Tyler O’Connor was 5-of-9 for 65 yards and one touchdown.
Terry and O’Connor have been neck-and-neck all fall camp for the back-up position, with Friday not making the decision any easier for the coaching staff.
Multiple receivers got an opportunity to play on Friday, with 18 different receivers catching at least one pass. Senior Tony Lippett led the group with three receptions for 24 yards. Junior wide receiver DeAnthony Arnett backed up his stellar week one scrimmage with a seven-yard touchdown reception on Friday.
Senior running back Jeremy Langford was once again held out of the scrimmage by Dantonio, giving younger guys more reps in the backfield. Senior running back Nick Hill had 10 carries for 43 yards and a touchdown, and redshirt freshman running back Gerald Holmes had 11 carries for 40 yards as the top two rushers.
MSU will return to practice on Saturday to continue preseason camp. Dantonio said following the scrimmage that next week MSU will begin to focus more on the season opening opponent Jacksonville State and lighten up on full contact practices.
"In week three, we'll shift our focus a little bit,” Dantonio said. “We'll work a little bit more toward our first game. We won't go `live' quite as much, but we'll have contact at least one time next week."