In what will have to suffice for news today, the Michigan State offense beat the defense in overtime by a score that'll only have meaning to the coaches (101-88, if by chance you can interpret it). The scoring system may be arcane; however, the performances were not. What morsels of stats can we wildly inflate and read waaaaay too much information into (Ex: Denard Robinson's spring game performance on Saturday)? Let's break it down.
Kirk Cousins turned in an average performance: 14-24, 156 yards, with two touchdown passes and an interception, nothing new to see there. What was new and exciting though was redshirt freshman Andrew Maxwell's performance: 17-30 for 220 yards, three touchdown passes and an interception. Since most of Maxwell's play was with the second-team offense, it's clear that the backup QB spot is his to lose, and that some fringe of the Spartan fan base will call for him to start after Cousins' first incompletion of the year.
With the reinstatement of Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham, Keith Nichol's shift to wideout, and the return of WR/QB/KR/Ninja Keshawn Martin, Michigan State has never been so stacked at wide receiver, and I haven't mentioned redshirt freshman Bennie Fowler yet. Nichol had four receptions for 39 yards and two TDs, and the MSU scrimmage recap describes them as such:
First, he outjumped cornerback Dana Dixon (6-2, 173, R-Fr.) for a 15-yard reception in the right corner of the end zone, and then on the final play of overtime, Nichol used his frame to shield off cornerback Johnny Adams (5-11, 170, R-So.) and snag a 7-yard pass in the left corner of the end zone.
If he can shed the case of dropsies he had during the Alamo Bowl, Nichol, it sounds like Nichol is going to be a solid WR this year. Mark Dell had caught five passes for 91 yards and Martin caught five passes for 75 yards. Fowler tallied the most receptions during the scrimmage, catching six balls for 66 yards. Fowler's greatest challenge: finding a role in this offense that has three experienced receivers already on the field.
It sounds like Larry Caper sat out the second half of the scrimmage with a minor injury. Four months ago Nick Hill was in high school, and on Saturday he led the State running backs with 79 yards on 17 carries. Here's how Coach Dantonio described Hill:
"Nick's running style is very similar to Edwin (Baker)'s. They both run with power and catch the ball well coming out of the backfield. Like Edwin, Nick also has the ability to stick his foot in the ground, change direction and get up field."
However, running with power means one thing if you're 5'6" and 182 (Hill) and another thing if you're 5'9" and a buck short of 200 pounds (Baker). Baker had a good scrimmage too with 73 yards on 15 carries, and freshman Leveon Bell had 36 yards on 9 carries. A good performance, especially during the spring when the running game tends to be a bit sluggish.
Since no one from The Only Colors observed the scrimmage, we can't really speak to how well they did in a technical sense. Good news - it sounds like the running game did sufficiently well. Bad news - they allowed a lot of sacks, which I'll get to in the defense recap.
No mention of the tight ends, from which I can only determine that Dion Sims, Garrett Celek and Brian Linthicum will catch a grand total of zero passes this year, and will serve out the rest of their careers as blocking dummies.
In what can only be described as a complete and utter upset, Greg Jones was the defensive star of the scrimmage. Shocking, I know. Jones had 8 tackles, 4 sacks for 37 yards, and recovered a fumble. Linebacker Chris Norman and defensive end Tyler Hoover each had five tackles and two sacks; Hoover also had an interception. Redshirt safety Patrick White tied for the team lead in tackles with eight, and linebackers Steve Gardiner and Jon Misch each had seven tackles. Once again, take most of this information with a grain of salt, as few know the circumstances in which these stats were amassed. However, Jones with four sacks does merit a HOLY CRAP.
We've got two good ones. Sophomore Dan Conroy hit all four of his attempts from 19, 35, 45, and 47 yards. Redshirt freshman Kevin Muma hit a 42 yard field goal and missed one from 47 yards. This consistency is encouraging, especially since it was a fair bit windy in East Lansing on Saturday. Knowing Dantonio, he probably won't settle on a starter until November, but rest assured that the player who gets the starts won't be the second coming of John Goss.
Aaron Bates' punting was not mentioned in Michigan State's press release. I'll take that to mean his punting was sufficient.
A reminder - the Spring Game's Saturday at 1:30, with parking opening at noon. If you're thinking about tailgating, keep in mind that the ban on open alcohol will be in effect so don't forget the Solo cups. Weather.com is predicting a high of 59 degrees and a 40% chance of rain, so bring your ponchos and dress warm, two tips I should've heeded last year.