Defense Wins First Preseason Jersey Scrimmage, 74-54

Michigan State


Linebacker Darien Harris leads the defense with nine tackles, while quarterback Andrew Maxwell completes 16-of-29 passes for 162 yards.

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Under mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the upper-70s, the Michigan State football team held its first jersey scrimmage of preseason camp Sunday afternoon in Spartan Stadium. Utilizing a modified scoring system, the defense defeated the offense, 74-54, in a “situational” scrimmage.

Red-shirt freshman linebacker Darien Harris led the defense with nine tackles, while sophomore linebacker Taiwan Jones tallied seven stops. Red-shirt freshman linebacker Ed Davis contributed six tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss (7 yards) and a 6-yard sack, and junior safety Jairus Jones also collected six tackles, including a 10-yard sack, to go along with a pass break-up.

The defensive line created a steady pass rush all afternoon, as four different linemen recorded a sack. Among the standouts on the defensive front, junior William Gholston had four tackles (1.5 for loss for 3 yards) and a 2-yard sack, and red-shirt freshman Joel Heath tallied three tackles, including 1.5 for losses (8 yards) and a 7-yard sack.

Offensively, junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell completed 16-of-29 passes for 162 yards. His favorite target during the scrimmage was junior Bennie Fowler, who led all receivers with five catches for 55 yards. Sophomore tight end Andrew Gleichert hauled in three receptions for 41 yards, and sophomore Tony Lippett had three catches for 34 yards.

Field goals by Kevin Muma (44 yards) and Dan Conroy (23 yards), along with a 30-yard touchdown pass from true freshman Tyler O’Connor to Tres Barksdale, gave the offense the early advantage with a 17-14 lead.

But following Conroy’s field goal that made it 17-14, the defense rallied with a 10-yard sack by Jairus Jones and then a fumble recovery by Harris to go up, 24-18, and it never looked back. The defense extended its lead to 44-22 following a 22-yard interception return by red-shirt freshman safety Arjen Colquhoun.

The offense had a chance to cut into the deficit with a first-and-goal situation toward the end of the scrimmage, but red-shirt freshman defensive end Shilique Calhoun stuffed Nick Hill on fourth down at the 2-yard line to keep the offense out of the end zone, giving the defense a 57-26 lead.

On the last play of the scrimmage, red-shirt freshman Connor Cook found sophomore Jeremy Langford for a 38-yard scoring play to make the final 74-54.

Michigan State will resume preseason camp Monday with an evening practice.

First Preseason Scrimmage Recap

Time elapsed: 2:44 (161 total plays)

Stat Leaders

Rushing: Le’Veon Bell 12-49.

Passing: Andrew Maxwell 16-of-29 for 162 yards; Connor Cook 15-of-25 for 145 yards, one touchdown (38 yards to Jeremy Langford) and one interception; Tyler O’Connor 6-of-14 for 105 yards and one touchdown (37 yards to Tres Barksdale).

Receiving: Bennie Fowler 5-55; Andrew Gleichert 3-41; Tony Lippett 3-34; Jeremy Langford 2-60.

Defense (solo-assists-total): Darien Harris 3-6-9 including 1.0 tackle for loss (3 yards) and a fumble recovery; Taiwan Jones 2-5-7; Ed Davis 1-5-6 including 1.5 tackles for loss (7 yards) and one sack (6 yards); RJ Williamson 3-3-6; Jairus Jones 2-4-6 including a 10-yard sack and a pass break-up; William Gholston 2-2-4 including 1.5 tackles for loss (3 yards) and a 2-yard sack; Joel Heath 2-1-3 including 1.5 tackles for loss (8 yards) and a 7-yard sack; Arjen Colquhoun 2-1-3 and a 22-yard interception; Knox 2-0-2 including 2.0 tackles for loss (5 yards).

Post-scrimmage quotes:

Mark Dantonio:

“Andrew Maxwell looked sharp, and Connor Cook had his share of moments too. Tyler O’Connor looked good running the threes. The offense made some big plays, but for the most part the defense played pretty well. The offense scored two touchdowns, one with the threes and the other with the twos in a 2-minute situation. The defense forced a couple of turnovers and won pretty handily.

“Le’Veon Bell made a couple of big plays running the football. He’s a great running back, so we know he’s going to make things happen (with the ball in his hands).

“Our defensive front is strong. We have several red-shirt freshmen on that second team that look pretty good. I also was impressed with the way our linebackers ran (to the football). Overall, I’m happy with the performance of our defense. Offensively, we have to be able to get into a rhythm and move the ball on a consistent basis. When evaluating things, there’s always a little give and take (between the offense and defense). We definitely got a lot of work done out here today.

“We tried to get everybody in there today. We need to identify the guys that can step forward and contribute.

“It was important to see our freshmen (in action) and work with them, so we can see where they’re at in the overall scheme of things. The ones, twos and threes all got a lot of reps.

“Demetrious Cox continues to improve, and he’s put himself in a position to run with the twos. Demetrious is probably the one freshman that looks like he’s ready to play.

“There were a couple of penalties early on, but the rest of the scrimmage was pretty clean. There weren’t many center-quarterback exchange issues and there were only two turnovers in 150-plus plays. It was a good ‘situational’ scrimmage, and tomorrow it will be a good learning tool when we watch the video. Our focus is to continue to improve.

“We’ve covered a lot of ground in the first 10 practices. We almost have the entire offense and defense installed, and we’re trying to address every possible situation in practice. We’ve accomplished a lot in these first nine days of camp, but we a long way to go (before the season opener).”

Quarterback Andrew Maxwell:

“We got a good week of practice under our belt, so we just wanted to come out and execute. We’ve got pretty much our whole offense in, so we wanted to come out and be crisp mentally. We had some mental errors, but we’ll get those cleaned up. We’ll be ready to get back to work tomorrow.

“The self-inflicted wounds and unforced errors killed drives. Despite being the first scrimmage, there weren’t too many penalties, so that’s always a plus.

“We have to go back and clean up those mental mistakes. Obviously, there were some plays today that we simply beat ourselves on. If we can eliminate those mistakes from our game, we’ll be a lot more productive next week (in the second preseason scrimmage).

“The preseason pub Le’Veon Bell is getting is well deserved, and he showed that today. When you combine the way he runs the ball with toughness along with his moves, he’s truly a special back.

“If I’ve said it once this preseason, I’ve said it 100 times: it’s great to see Bennie (Fowler) healthy. He can make plays for us down field.”

Defensive End William Gholston:

“We’ve got a lot of competitors on this team, and overall, the team chemistry is great. Everybody came out and competed hard this afternoon.

“We’ll learn a lot more after we watch the film tomorrow, but we definitely need to play with a lot more energy. We need to play with excitement and enthusiasm. It’s also important for the sidelines to come alive. The on-the-field communication has been good; we just need a little more swag.

(On the play of Joel Heath and Damon Knox): “It helps a lot when you have guys like that playing behind you, especially in a two-minute situation. It’s a luxury when you can rotate fresh players like that into the lineup and still pressure the quarterback. Being able to pressure the quarterback is a big key for our defense.

“No, I’m not satisfied with where we’re at after 10 practices. We can always get better. Right now, we’re putting in work, so we can get the desired results this season. We’re going to strive to improve each practice, as we prepare for the season opener against Boise State.”

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