O’Connor pulled, MSU QB controversy brewing

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Spartan quarterback Tyler O'Connor passes from deep in his own territory.

East Lansing – Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said he has no interest in dealing with a quarterback controversy, but that might be where things are headed after all.

Following Michigan State’s 31-14 loss at home to BYU on Saturday – the first three-game losing streak for Michigan State since 2009 – Dantonio and the Spartans return to Big Ten play next week against Northwestern without a clear starting quarterback.

“We have to evaluate exactly who did what and evaluate in practice,” Dantonio said after the game.

Senior Tyler O’Connor has had his struggles this season but was effective early Saturday, leading Michigan State on a 15-play drive to open the game for a 7-0 lead. O’Connor was 6-for-8 on the drive and the offense was humming.

However, things became stagnant from that point and O’Connor attempted just three more passes the rest of the game. And by the fourth quarter, Dantonio took O’Connor out and inserted junior Damion Terry.

“It’s not one person’s fault, it’s a cumulative effect,” Dantonio said. “Play-calling, structure, execution, it’s all of it. At that point in time, I felt like we needed to make a move. The last thing I want to do is create controversy. I just felt like we needed to provide a spark and have something happen. Damion Terry came into the season thinking he was going to take some reps. It wasn’t out of the picture that we should see him.

“He did some things and took us down the field on that one drive. Had a poor throw on the interception. I’m not here to blame Tyler O’Connor for this. It’s not his fault we lost.”

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But it has created a situation where a change in starters is possible.

“I don’t think you can sit back and say you’re not upset about what’s happening,” said O’Connor, who was 7-for-11 for 58 yards. “It’s frustrating as an offense to not put up more points and go down and drive. But I’ve been for this team the whole time I’ve been here, so whatever they do, I’ll have their back on it and roll with it. I’m going to keep giving my all and give everything I can for this team.”

Terry was 6-for-10 for 63 yards in his couple of series, the first one ending with an interception that led to a BYU score. He bounced back to lead a scoring drive that ended with his 1-yard run.

“It’s a real hard position to be in right now, but we’d never let this get between our friendship,” Terry said. “We’ll go in tomorrow and meet with Coach D and everyone, but nothing will happen with us. I’ve seen all the work he’s put in the offseason. He’ll be fine. We’ll be all right.”

While the quarterback play is under the microscope, the play-calling is starting to draw plenty of heat, as well. After the success of the opening drive, MSU went run-heavy. Its final two drives of the half were eight straight runs and both ended in punts.

Each began inside the 5-yard line, the reasoning co-offensive coordinator Dave Warner gave for sticking with the run.

Dantonio shot down any notion of taking over the play-calling.

“No, I am not going to do that,” he said. “Absolutely not. That will not happen.”

Instead, the Spartans go back to self-evaluating and determining who will be on the field when they face Northwestern next week.

“I’m sure we all evaluate ourselves,” O’Connor said. “I’m sure Coach Warner will do the same thing, but nobody is pointing a finger. Whatever is called, we all have to execute.”

Twitter @mattcharboneau