Spring Football Update: Defense Claims First Jersey Scrimmage

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Andrew Maxwell continues to shine for the Spartans.  Photo courtesy of Starr Portice.

Andrew Maxwell continues to shine for the Spartans. Photo courtesy of Starr Portice.



EAST LANSING, Mich. – Under overcast skies and temperatures in the low-50s, fifth-year Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio sent his team through a 115-play “controlled” scrimmage in Spartan Stadium on Friday, April 8, as the Spartans completed their sixth of 15 allotted spring practices. Utilizing a modified scoring system, the defense claimed the Green (home) jerseys by winning the first spring scrimmage, 55-45.


The scrimmage format provided the defense with 18 different scoring opportunities, while the offense had 11 ways to put points on the scoreboard, including the traditional touchdown and field goal.


The Spartan first- and second-team defense dominated the early action, as the offense failed to record a first down on its first five series of the 2-hour scrimmage. The defense came up with stops on the first 13 possessions en route to building a commanding 48-29 lead, while recording three sacks, two interceptions and four quarterback pressures.


“The defense played well – tackled effectively, pressured the quarterback and came away with some turnovers,” Dantonio said. “The defense gave up only two touchdowns this afternoon and both came while playing in the red zone. We ran 115 plays this afternoon, so really it was a light day for us.Â


“When standing here watching the scrimmage, you never feel like you’re winning because you’re rooting for both sides to do well. There were very few penalties in the scrimmage and that’s a positive. Offensively, we had some dropped passes that killed drives, and we simply can’t have that happen. We also have a number of young guys playing along the offensive line, so if there’s a breakdown up there, things simply don’t work.”


Defensive ends Tyler Hoover (6-7, 274, Jr.) and William Gholston (6-7, 265, So.) combined to record nine tackles, including three for losses (7 yards). Hoover registered five tackles, with two resulting in losses including a 5-yard sack, while Gholston contributed four stops, including one for a loss, and a pass break-up. Linebacker Max Bullough (6-3, 240, So.) also posted five tackles for the first-team defense.


“The front seven played well,” Dantonio said. “At 6-7, 265-270 pounds, both Tyler Hoover and William Gholston can be very good defensive ends. Tyler has been in the program for four years, so he has a good understanding of our system. William has a lot of talent, and he’s really benefitted greatly by playing last season as a true freshman.”


The offense staged a late rally, scoring 10 points on back-to-back possessions during the “red zone” period and adding a touchdown in the “goal-line” period.


The first series of the “red zone” period resulted in a 41-yard field goal by back-up placekicker Kevin Muma (6-0, 189, So.). On the next possession with the first team facing a second-and-13, Edwin Baker (5-9, 208, Jr.) scored on a 22-yard run up the middle. On the first snap of the “goal-line” period, Le’Veon Bell (6-2, 237, So.) raced 6 yards around left end for a TD, utilizing a stiff-arm to break cornerback Johnny Adams’ (5-11, 170, Jr.) attempted tackle.


Baker and Bell, who shared split snaps with the first team, combined to rush 14 times for 50 yards and two scores. Nick Hill (5-7, 182, R-Fr.) paced the second team with eight carries for 36 yards, while Jeremy Langford (5-11, 199, R-Fr.) added 25 yards on seven attempts.


“When the offense got the ball in the red zone, it scored,” Dantonio said. “Edwin Baker had a big run up the middle for a score and Le’Veon Bell had a nice TD run. Both Nick Hill and Jeremy Langford ran pretty well with the twos, so that’s very encouraging.”


Veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins (6-3, 202, Sr.-5), who was victimized by three dropped passes, completed 6-of-16 tosses for 41 yards and an interception, while back-up Andrew Maxwell (6-3, 208, So.) connected on 15-of-26 throws for 118 yards and an interception.


On his third series, Maxwell managed a 16-play, 76-yard drive that started at the Green 3. He opened the drive by completing his first seven passes for 79 yards, including a 43-yard bomb to Keith Mumphery (6-0, 205, R-Fr.). Facing a third-and-10 from the White 21, Maxwell was intercepted by linebacker TyQuan Hammock (6-0, 227, So.).


“Andrew Maxwell did a nice job managing a 16-play drive by the twos, coming off the 3-yard line,” Dantonio said, “but unfortunately, it ended in a turnover.”


Twelve different receivers caught at least one pass, including Chris D. Rucker (5-9, 175, Sr.-5), who had a scrimmage-best four receptions for 26 yards. Tony Lippett (6-2, 185, R-Fr.) had three catches for 15 yards, while Mumphery and Keshawn Martin (5-11, 185, Sr.) each caught two passes for 49 and 24 yards, respectively.


The Spartans have four practices scheduled for next week: Tuesday, April 12; Thursday, April 14; Friday, April 15; and the second jersey scrimmage on Saturday, April 16.


“We’re really pleased with where the team is after two weeks of spring practice,” Dantonio said. “The players have a great attitude and guys are providing great leadership. We’re getting a lot of work done every single day. We’ve had a limited number of injuries thus far and that’s another positive.”


Michigan State concludes its 15 spring practices with the Green-White intrasquad game on Saturday, April 30 at 1:30 p.m. EDT in Spartan Stadium. Parking is free (in Lots T-79, S-56, P-39/40 and Ramp 5), and the stadium gates (Gates B, C, J and K) open at 12 p.m. Admission is free.


MSU’s spring game will be streamed live on www.bigtennetwork.com and replayed Saturday, April 30 at 8 p.m. EDT on the Big Ten Network, with Will Tieman and Jason Strayhorn calling the action.Â