East Lansing — A week ago, Michigan State experienced an offensive explosion in its first preseason scrimmage.
On Friday, the defense answered, beating the offense, 33-28, in a modified scoring system at Spartan Stadium, sealing the victory on the final series of the scrimmage. From the 10-yard line, the defense forced four incomplete passes from Connor Cook, including a pass breakup on the final play by safety RJ Williamson.
“It was a hard-hitting scrimmage,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “The first-team defense performed pretty solid and limited the number of big plays. The defense tackled pretty well and guys made plays on the ball down the field.
“We came out here a little bit flat initially, but competition has a way of heating things up. It was a very competitive scrimmage, especially at the end. During the two-minute drive, it came down to the last play of the scrimmage, and that’s how we like it. Win or lose on the last play, it creates a little more enthusiasm and competitiveness.”
Junior linebacker Darien Harris, who is fighting to hold on to the No. 1 “star” outside linebacker position, recorded six tackles, including one for a 2-yard loss, and had an interception and a pass break-up. Sophomore cornerback Jermaine Edmondson and freshman cornerback Montae Nicholson led the team with seven tackles and a pass break-up as well.
Sophomore linebacker Riley Bullough, who has drawn plenty of rave reviews from the coaching staff, had six tackles. Sophomore safeties Demetrious Cox and Mark Meyers each had five stops. Redshirt freshman linebacker Jon Reschke had five tackles, including a 5-yard loss, and junior defensive end Shilique Calhoun had four stops, including a tackle for a 6-yard loss.
It was quite a turnaround from last week when the offense won, 47-30, and threw for more than 700 yards.
“Jon Reschke made some plays, and Riley Bullough was solid as well,” Dantonio said. “Both of those guys play with a lot of enthusiasm and up-tempo. They’re both pushing (for playing time), and they’re both going to play. It’s sort of a linebacker group by committee right now, which is a positive thing because they’re young players. They’re good athletes, who play with a lot of emotion.”
The quarterback play wasn’t as productive this time around, but numbers were still solid. Cook completed 14 of 28 passes for 175 yards and one interception against the first-team defense. Playing against the second-team defense, sophomore Tyler O’Connor was 5-of-9 passing for 65 yards and a touchdown, while redshirt freshman Damion Terry was 6-of-7 for 105 yards and two touchdowns.
“I was impressed with Damion Terry and Tyler O’Connor,” Dantonio said. “They both played very, very well and continue to have great preseason camps. (The backup quarterback situation) has been a positive.”
Dantonio said senior running back Jeremy Langford was held out of the scrimmage while backups Nick Hill, Gerald Holmes and Madre London got the bulk of the work. Hill gained 43 yards on 10 carries, including a 2-yard touchdown, and Holmes had 11 carries for 40 yards.
Eighteen different receivers caught at least one pass, including Tony Lippett (3 catches for 24 yards), AJ Troup (2-29) and Aaron Burbridge (2-26). On special teams, sophomore Michael Geiger was 6-for-6 on field goals, including a 43-yarder. Sophomore Kevin Cronin was 3-for-3, including a 45-yarder.
The Spartans return to practice Saturday as they begin preparation for the opener against Jacksonville State on Aug. 29.
“In Week three, we’ll shift our focus a little bit,” Dantonio said. “We’ll work a little bit more toward our first game. We won’t go live quite as much, but we’ll have contact at least one time next week.”