DeAnthony Arnett is from Saginaw. He transferred to MSU from Tennessee after his freshman season with the Volunteers in 2011. (Dale G. Young / Detroit News)
East Lansing — In stark contrast to past seasons, Michigan State’s first scrimmage of preseason camp was an offensive explosion.
Recently it has been the defense that has been dialed in early in camp. But on Saturday, it was the offense’s turn. MSU’s offense beat the defense, 47-30, in the first jersey scrimmage under a modified scoring system that was played on the practice field in the first half and at Spartan Stadium for the second.
“The offense probably played as good as it ever has in a first scrimmage,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “The passing game produced a lot of big plays. All three quarterbacks played really, really well. They were very accurate, and the receivers caught the ball (in traffic). I continually say if a guy’s open, it’s one thing, but if you make the 50-50 catch with someone hanging on you or after taking a hit, that’s impressive. Everybody got in on the action. … We came away impressed by our offense.”
Starting quarterback Connor Cook took the majority of first-team snaps and completed 16-of-24 passes for 214 yards, including a 42-yard touchdown to senior Keith Mumphery. But it was the battle for the backup spot that was the most intriguing.
Sophomore Tyler O’Connor, taking most of the snaps against the second-team defense, was 16-of-24 passing for 246 yards and a touchdown while redshirt freshman Damion Terry was 13-for-18 for 288 yards and four touchdowns.
The most impressive stats, however, might have been from receiver DeAnthony Arnett, who had eight catches for 167 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“DeAnthony Arnett had a great scrimmage, but it seemed like everybody came up big in the passing game,” Dantonio said. “Keith Mumphery had a big play early in the scrimmage, Tony Lippett produced some big plays and so did Tres Barksdale, but DeAnthony definitely stood out. He made three big plays (20-plus yards), with two going for touchdowns.”
Senior running back Jeremy Langford was limited so the younger players could get more carries. Freshman Madre London was the leading rusher with 51 yards on 14 carries.
The first-team defense didn't allow a touchdown in the second half and allowed just one scoring possession, as Michael Geiger made a 52-yard field goal.
Senior safety Kurtis Drummond had 10 tackles, including a 2-yard loss. Second-teamers Jon Reschke and Mark Meyers each recorded nine stops. Sophomore linebacker Riley Bullough had eight tackles, including 1.5 for losses and a pass breakup, while freshman linebacker Chris Frey posted seven stops with 1.5 sacks.
Junior linebacker Darien Harris had six tackles and recorded an interception, and junior defensive end Shilique Calhoun had two tackles for loss, including a 7-yard sack, with four tackles overall.
“Defensively, the ones played OK,” Dantonio said. “Maybe not as well as they have (in the past), but our twos have to play better. Give a lot of credit to the (offensive) guys for making the plays.”
Michigan State begins its second week camp on Monday as the opener against Jacksonville State on Aug. 29 draws closer.
“Next week is the grind,” Dantonio said. “It’s that time when everybody’s sort of had it with football a little bit, so we’ve got to press forward. We’ve got a two-a-day on Monday. We’ve got to do some things on special teams. We didn’t work on special teams as much as we wanted to today.
“We need to see improvement from our young players. They’ve had their first scrimmage in Spartan Stadium, so now we need to see which guys are going to take the next step to advance. We’ve got to stay healthy, continue to input things and strive for consistency. We need to come back and have another great scrimmage next week.”