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Michigan State: Five things we learned

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Michigan Statequarterback Tyler O’Connor, who got the start again, fakes a handoff and runs for a first down in the victory Saturday.

Bright future: It looks like Michigan State will have its share of playmakers in the future, and it’s not limited to just one side of the ball as Donnie Corley, Justin Layne and Trishton Jackson — all part of a heralded group of freshman wide receivers to start the season — played key roles Saturday. And the fact two of them did it on defense makes it all the more intriguing. Corley had the biggest hit of the game while playing cornerback. And Layne, who played one game at receiver before moving to corner, had an impressive tackle for a loss.

Bright future, II: Youth was not only being served by the three skill players as Michigan State started two redshirt freshmen on the offensive line — left tackle Cole Chewins and left guard Tyler Higby — while starting two freshmen (end Josh King, tackle Mike Panasiuk) and a redshirt freshman (Raequan Williams) on the defensive line. That hardly was the end of the list, however, as a large crop of freshmen and redshirt freshmen saw action. Add in the sophomore class and the core of the next couple of seasons already is on display.

Making up ground: Despite injuries along the offensive line, the Michigan State running game has continued to show signs of life. The Spartans’ ground attack now has gained more than 200 yards in three of the last four games after gaining a season-best 277 in the win over Rutgers. In the process, each of the tailbacks has started to emerge as LJ Scott has had three 100-yard games in the last four, Gerald Holmes has remained solid and Madre London scored twice against Rutgers.

Spartans inherit spoiler role in Big Ten East

Snap decisions: The quarterback position remains status quo for the Spartans as fifth-year senior Tyler O’Connor started and junior Damion Terry came in the second half with the game out of reach. The future is murky, though. Some of that is because redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke is out with a broken leg and MSU has no plans to take the redshirt off freshman Messiah deWeaver. But if Terry was going to be in the mix next year, shouldn’t he be getting more work now?

The bad news ... Michigan State’s defense pitched its first shutout since 2013. And after spending much of the season lamenting the poor turnover ratio, the Spartans got a pair of interceptions and returned one for a touchdown. But the Spartans still aren’t getting to the quarterback and now have gone three games without a sack. They have just seven through 10 games this season, down from 37 a year ago.