With head coach Mark Dantonio at home recovering from a heart attack suffered Sept. 19, MSU offensive coordinator Don Treadwell said it was important for the No. 24 Spartans (4-0) to get off to a quick start Saturday against Northern Colorado (2-2).
So when senior linebacker Greg Jones intercepted the first pass of his career just five plays into the game, Treadwell said he couldn’t have asked for a better beginning.
“All of a sudden, you’re on offense on the five-yard line, we call a play, the line explodes off the ball and (sophomore running back Edwin Baker) scores,” Treadwell said Sunday. “That’s the way to start a ball game.”
Treadwell, who took over head coaching responsibilities in Dantonio’s absence, said the entire staff always emphasizes staring games quickly. But without Dantonio roaming the sidelines Saturday, Treadwell said building confidence early became even more important for MSU.
Scoring 35 points in the first half, the Spartans went on to win 45-7. Both the MSU offense and defense played arguably the most complete game of the season, and Treadwell said it all could be attributed to Jones’ interception and Baker’s touchdown less than two minutes after the opening kickoff.
“That momentum kind of fed us as a collective group to do some positive things throughout the rest of the game,” Treadwell said.
Along with starting the game off with a bang, Treadwell said it also was important for players to stay focused amid all the emotions of the last week.
And as evidenced by the Spartans’ domination on both sides of the ball Saturday, players had no problems being ready on game day.
“Needless to say, they were all very concerned about our head coach and that type of thing throughout the course of the week,” Treadwell said. “But I think they did a great job of keeping that behind them and being able to stay locked in.”
Cousins ‘coming along’
As MSU’s offense marched up and down the field Saturday, especially in the first half, no player looked more focused than junior quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Completing 16 of his 20 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns, Cousins had a completion percentage of more than 69 percent for the second consecutive week.
Treadwell said Northern Colorado crowded the box Saturday, giving Cousins the chance to work the ball downfield. And after struggling through the first two weeks of the season, Cousins is back on track, Treadwell said.
“Certainly he’s coming along,” Treadwell said. “I think he’s moving along just fine and where we would want him to be at this point in time.”
Although the Spartans’ special teams did not get much work Saturday, Treadwell said the unit continues to be one of the most consistent aspects of the team.
Sophomore kicker Dan Conroy has been especially impressive. After hitting a 43-yard field goal late in the game against the Bears, Conroy now is 5-for-5 on the season with four of those makes coming from more than 40 yards.
“He has done a very good job, to make a long story short,” Treadwell said. “That’s a big statement for him and where he’s at right now in terms of our field goal kicking.”