MSU's Warner: It all starts with offensive line
East Lansing — Looking back at last week's numbers, there would be little to complain about with the Michigan State offense.
The Spartans gained 482 yards, including 242 on the ground in a 37-15 victory over Maryland. Jeremy Langford ran for 138 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Connor Cook threw for 240 yards.
But those numbers disguise what was an uneven performance from an offense that has been outstanding for most of the season. For most of the first half the Spartans were held to three field goals, only finding the end zone late in the second quarter after wide receiver Keith Mumphery broke a tackle and raced 62 yards to set up a Langford touchdown run.
They were also only 6-for-18 on third down and Cook had at least two passes dropped by Maryland defenders that could have been intercepted.
"I think we struggled running the football in the first half," offensive coordinator Dave Warner said. "In the second half I think we came out and ran the ball much better. The first half we were not running as efficiently as we normally would and in the pass game Connor made some bad decisions, and quite honestly, you put those two things together and you're not gonna look very good."
That was certainly the case early against the Terrapins but once the offensive line buckled down, things started to turn around.
And that's been the basis for No. 10 Michigan State's offense all season – get solid play up front and everything starts to click.
"It always starts off with our offensive line, that's always the message to the offense every week," Warner said. "Those guys have played well this year and they have stepped up and as we have had guys bumps and bruises, we have moved guys around and they've kept producing. I think that's where it starts again this week."
One of the more significant bumps came last week against Maryland when fifth-year senior left guard Travis Jackson left the game and was given concussion tests. He did not return to the game and on Tuesday coach Mark Dantonio wouldn't speculate on his status for Saturday's game against Rutgers.
On Wednesday, Warner said Jackson "looked fine" in practice and hoped he would be ready for his final home game at Spartan Stadium.
"I would hope so," Warner said.
Even without Jackson, the Spartans will be looking to get the offense back to the level that has helped it set a school record in points scored and touchdowns. Through 10 games, Michigan State has scored 438 points and 55 touchdowns while its 34 rushing touchdowns is four shy of the record of 38 set in 1948. It also is closing in on the school record of total yards in a season, gaining 5,051 with two games to reach the 5,520 gained in 2004.
Michigan State ranks second in the Big Ten and sixth in the FBS in scoring, averaging 43.8 points per game while also leading the Big Ten and ranking seventh in the FBS in total offense, averaging 514.0 yards.
"I think it's a credit to, first and foremost, our players on offense," Warner said. "We have guys that have come back after last season and taken the next step. I think it's a credit to our offensive staff as a whole and I think it's a credit to Coach D for putting everything together and making it happen. I think it's something everybody can take pride in."
Reschke not practicing
Redshirt freshman linebacker Jon Reschke did not dress last week at Maryland because of an undisclosed injury.
On Wednesday, defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said Reschke is not practicing this week but wouldn't give any further information.
Reschke has been a key contributor on special teams and was the backup to Taiwan Jones at middle linebacker. With Reschke out, sophomore Riley Bullough becomes the No. 2 in the middle.
"He has had a real good year for us," Narduzzi said of Bullough. "He has gotten real good on third down, doing what he does there, and subbing in at Mike linebacker and the boundary backer spot. So Riley continues to get better."
Gideon Smith, the first African-American athlete at Michigan Agricultural College, now Michigan State, has been named the American Football Coaches Association's recipient of the 2014 Trailblazer Award. The award will be presented posthumously at the AFCA President's Kickoff Luncheon on Jan. 12 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Smith, who died in 1968 at age 78, was a standout defensive tackle for Michigan Agricultural College and in 1913, he and the Aggies defeated the Michigan Wolverines for the first time in school history, 12-7. After becoming the first African-American male to graduate from Michigan Agricultural College, Smith played professionally for a year before eventually becoming a successful coach at Hampton Institute (Hampton University) from 1921-1940.
Rutgers at Michigan State
Kickoff: Noon Saturday, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing
TV/radio: BTN, BTN2/WJR 760
Line: Michigan State by 22
Series: Michigan State leads 3-2 (Rutgers 19-14 Sept. 4, 2004)
Did you know? Rutgers practiced on its grass fields to prepare for Spartan Stadium.