Spartans still searching for a No. 1 running back

Tony Garcia
Special to the Detroit News

A famous old adage in the world of football is that having two quarterbacks is as good as having none.

How does that truism translate to having three — actually four when healthy — running backs?

The Spartans spread the ball around to their running backs against Indiana Saturday almost as much as Connor Cook spread the ball around to their receivers, but still were unable to get much going for the first 54 minutes.

“I don’t think we need a No. 1 running back, first of all,” Mark Dantonio said following No. 7 Michigan State’s victory over Indiana.

“We’ve got three or four guys that have made plays for us. You could make the case for Gerald Holmes being out there as the No. 1 guy, you could certainly say Madre London is the No. 1, you could certainly say LJ Scott is No. 1, and you know Delton Williams, because of his past here you could sit there and say he deserves an opportunity to play.”

So what does that mean going forward?

“We’re always going to ride the hot guy,” Dantonio said. “I wouldn’t say that we need to have a No. 1, we need to have guys that are going to play hard and bring their A-game to every football game.”

This week, technically, it was Gerald Holmes as the No. 1 back. Holmes, who got his first start of the season, rushed 10 times for 39 yards, and his day was saved — statistically — with a touchdown on his final play, a 22-yard scamper.

“Early in the game I feel like we’ve just been coming out flat,” Holmes said. “To be honest our approach that we have is whoever’s in the game … can get the job done. We look at it as that friendly competition, but at the end of the day, Coach D is going to find whoever is the hot back … He’s going to run with them.”

To be frank, there wasn’t a hot back for the first 3-1/2 quarters. However, eventually, the 96-play day for the MSU offense was enough to overpower the Hoosiers’ 71st ranked rush defense.

“I’d say we wore them down,” left tackle Jack Conklin said. “They stacked the box quite a bit… But our smash mouth game that we play, we kept running the ball, you know, we didn’t stop, I mean we threw the ball a lot, but we had a lot of plays. I think you could see us wearing them down. It wasn’t that they weren’t playing as well, we just got better, we just kept going and that’s the conditioning you see.”

The rushing offense finished with 142 yards on 44 carries and three touchdowns.

“I thought we wore them down,” Holmes said. “We played MSU football that second half. We came out, ran the ball, and ran what we know… I felt like our line, they really pride themselves on running the ball, and came out with a whole different mind-set the second half.”

Holmes added that Indiana was stacking the box — with eight or more defenders — for much of the game, but that shouldn’t matter.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got to run the ball,” Holmes said. “That’s the statement that Michigan State brings.”

Tony Garcia is a freelance writer.