September 7, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Terry Foster

Michigan State's Mark Dantonio should be embarrassed by QB mess

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East Lansing — Connor Cook and Tyler O’Connor did not fail Michigan State on Saturday. Neither did Andrew Maxwell, although the offense produced just seven points of during a 21-6 victory over South Florida at Spartan Stadium.

This season’s critical failure at quarterback falls squarely on head coach Mark Dantonio and his staff. They failed this football program and this fan base over the summer, when they did not do enough to develop a single quarterback for the fall.

The boos were justified.

On Saturday, we witnessed another game of musical chairs as the Spartans rotated Cook and Connor, and benched Maxwell. I cannot stand here and defend Maxwell, but his replacements didn’t look much better.

The real losers, though, are the Spartans fans who paid to see this.

My guy to fix this is freshman Damion Terry. He is the best man for the job — but he did not get a chance to play because of strep throat, mono and a bruised thumb. He did not get any reps in practice, and thus was not prepared to play against the Bulls.

Get healthy young man. Quickly.

'There is some frustration'

Do you know why Cook will probably start next week? He finally woke up enough to lead the Spartans on a whopping 33-yard scoring drive — their only one of the game. But it took him nine plays to do it. That is just 3.7 yard per play. Wow.

In this game, Cook ran 36 plays, Maxwell 20 and O’Connor 13.

“There is some frustration there,” co-offensive coordinator Dave Warner said. “But I still believe in us as an offense. There is frustration there but at the same time we are going to get it taken care of. Our defense is playing so stinking good that we’ve got to find a way to help them along.”

No one stood out. No one took control of this offense, mostly because these guys are not properly prepared. It was no offensive treat for South Florida either. The two teams used six quarterbacks.

The coaches also tried the wild and wacky. Late in the third quarter, they split Maxwell wide and put running back Nick Hill in the shot gun. Someone forgot to tell MSU coaches that the Wildcat now is part of the Blackberry offense. It is old and out of date.

Thank goodness the Spartans defense is angry and elite. Shilique Calhoun scooped up a fumble for one touchdown and returned an interception for 56 yards for a touchdown. That makes Calhoun the Spartans leading scorer for the season.

He is a defensive end. Hmmm. I wonder if he can play quarterback.

If you are keeping score at home, the Spartans defense has outscored the offense, 28-19.

But quarterback isn’t the Spartans only problem on offense. Did you notice how often they tried sweeps? Did you notice when they needed a big play, they did a double reverse? Against South Florida, the same team that gave up 53 points to McNeese State?

MSU also lacks a place kicking game. However, that won’t become an issue until an important field goal is muffed during Big Ten play.

Dantonio called the running game OK. That is not OK enough.

'Keep juggling'

MSU has had bad quarterback play before, but was able to line it up and pound the rock against teams like South Florida. They did for a couple drives.

Here is how bad the offense was. The Michigan State punt team and the 67-minute rain delay provided more excitement. I’d rather watch replays of basketball coach Tom Izzo talking the student section into taking cover.

However, this is not new news. The Spartans offense has been pathetic for more than a year now. They should erect a statue of Kirk Cousins outside Spartan Stadium.

Check this out. Ever since Cousins left for the Washington Redskins, the Spartans offense turned anemic. Let’s throw out last year’s 41-7 victory over Central Michigan.

In the other 14 games, MSU is averaging 19 points a game. The Spartans quarterbacks are 248-for-487 (51 percent) and are averaging just 259.5 yard of total offense.

“We are going to keep juggling things,” said Warner, “until we get it right.”

That is what I am afraid of.

terry.foster@detroitnews.com

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Freshman quarterback Tyler O'Connor takes the first snap in his Michigan State career. / Dale G. Young / Detroit News