In an instant, it all changed — a positive swing for half of the MSU football team but a negative one for the other 40 Spartans. The Green team caught a late surge from senior kicker Matt Haughey’s two field goals Saturday afternoon at Spartan Stadium en route to a 23-21 victory over White in the intrasquad spring game that hosted about 27,000 fans.
“There’s more recall — we have a better feel for where we’re at in terms of knowing what to do so there’s more knowledge there,” football head coach Mark Dantonio said. “We lost some great players and we’ll have to replace those. But, we’ll fill in those gaps in August and today I thought guys took some steps forward.”
Offensive line coach Dan Roushar, acting as Green’s head coach, led his team to 299 total yards on offense, 19 first downs, 5-for-6 in the red zone and 6-of-13 successful conversions on third down — overshadowing the White team’s Chris D. Rucker, a sophomore wide receiver who caught two long touchdown passes.
Despite only being thrown the ball three times all afternoon, Rucker made sure to be efficient when his number was called — racking up 90 receiving yards.
“Anytime the ball is thrown to me, I should make the play,” he said. “I got those balls today — I just felt like they were throwing them to me for a reason, I didn’t want to let them down. Hopefully I can do the same thing in fall ball and earn a spot on the field for the first game.”
After Haughey buried his second field goal with 2:09 to play to put the White up 21-20, the Green squad knew if it was going to come from behind and steal a victory, lockdown defense and clock management were going to be key.
A stop, a short gain and an incomplete pass from senior quarterback Brian Hoyer (13-for-22 with 208 yards, three touchdowns and one interception) forced White to punt it back to its counterparts with 1:48 to play.
On the first play, Green sophomore quarterback Kirk Cousins (12-for-19 with 196 yards and one touchdown) zipped a screen pass to the sideline which landed in the hands of senior wide receiver Blair White — allowing him to take off for 58 yards, all the way to White’s 12 yard line.
“We have some good corners, but our receivers just came out and made plays,” said sophomore wide receiver Mark Dell, who led the wide outs with six catches and 120 yards. “We all came out and made a statement and we made it today.”
Failing to pound it into the end zone, Haughey lined up and converted his third field goal of the afternoon, this one from 31 yards out.
White drew up a play after the kickoff to try and march down the field, yet found themselves in the worst-case scenario — an interception by senior safety Otis Wiley, sticking the nail in the coffin after swiping Hoyer’s pass in the middle of the field and returning it 50 yards to the White 3 yard line.
Shortly after, some Green-squad Spartans picked up a Gatorade jug, tip-toed over to men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo — the Green’s honorary coach — and dumped the ice-cold drink down his back.
A mixture of shock and excitement immediately appeared on Izzo’s face.
“That was great but it was a little cold though — I had some ice that went down my back but you can’t beat it, I enjoyed that experience,” said Izzo, who said he was involved with the play calling. “I’ve never had that, so it’ll be another memory maker for me. This is kind of special for me to do something that people only dream about doing, and being a part of it. I loved it.”
As for the team’s spring experience, sophomore linebacker Greg Jones said he couldn’t be happier.
“We’re very hungry as a team — guys preparing in the weight room, on and off the field,” he said. “I think that’s going to become a factor. Guys are willing to pay the price this year.”
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