Spring Football Update: Offense Wins Second Scrimmage, 68-46

Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol each throw a pair of touchdown passes, while Blair White catches eight passes for 105 yards and two scores. EAST LANSING, Mich. – Under mostly sunny skies and temperatures near 70, third-year Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio sent his team through a 101-play “controlled” scrimmage in Spartan Stadium on Saturday, April 18, as the Spartans completed the 12th of 15 allotted spring practices. Utilizing a modified scoring system, the offense got two touchdown passes each from sophomores Kirk Cousins (6-3, 202) and Keith Nichol (6-2, 212) and regained the Green (home) jerseys by winning the second spring scrimmage, 68-46. The scrimmage format provided the defense with 18 different scoring opportunities, while the offense had 11 ways to put points on the scoreboard, including the traditional touchdown and field goal. The Spartan defense dominated the early action, coming up with stops on 10 of the first 11 possessions, to build a 21-13 lead. Midway through the scrimmage, the defense enjoyed its biggest lead at 33-23. As they have done throughout the spring, Cousins and Nichol shared snaps at quarterback. Cousins played 10 series and completed 16-of-26 throws for 214 yards, while Nichol played nine series and hit 15-of-25 passes for 196 yards and one interception. “It was a great scrimmage,” Dantonio said. “I thought both of our quarterbacks played very well and made some big plays. Blair White had a big scrimmage too, as the offense won the scrimmage. The defense played pretty well against the run but gave up some big plays in the passing game. The big plays were more the result of guys making plays. “We tried to create as many game-like situations as possible today, especially red-zone situations. The offense had a tough time running the football today, so the run defense continues to impress. Our linebackers continue to play very well. We tackled well on the perimeter today, but we missed a couple (tackles) on the back end. When I stand out there, I hope to see both sides do well, and I came away from today’s scrimmage feeling pretty good about everything. “The quarterbacks were impressive,” Dantonio continued. “Kirk Cousins came out and did some positive things. He was very proficient in the passing game. Once again, Keith Nichol scrambled out of trouble for some yardage, and he made a couple of nice throws down the field as well. Both of those guys I thought threw the ball down the field pretty well today and performed well overall.” The first-team offense scored on its second series, as a seven-play, 65-yard drive resulted in a 31-yard field goal by Brett Swenson (5-8, 175, Sr.). A 21-yard run around right end by Caulton Ray (5-9, 195, R-Fr.) and Cousins’ 39-yard completion to Blair White (6-2, 205, Sr.-5) proved to be the key plays in the scoring drive. A 26-yard completion to Mark Dell (6-2, 196, Jr.) on a third-and-18 play set up Cousins’ first TD pass, a 10-yard toss to Blair White who stretched the ball across the goal line before being driven out of bounds by free safety Danny Fortener (6-1, 203, Sr.-5). Thanks to a 2-yard TD run by Ray during a goal-line period and a 25-yard field goal from Dan Conroy (5-10, 180, R-Fr.), the offense finally tied the scrimmage score at 33. The offense took the lead for good at 42-38, as Nichol hooked up with Myles White (6-1, 170, R-Fr.) for a 56-yard scoring play on third-and-11. Andre Anderson gave the offense a 49-38 advantage with his 2-yard TD run behind left guard during the second goal-line period. Cousins capped off a seven-play, 60-yard drive with a 30-yard TD strike to Dell on a fourth-and-10 play. Dell caught the ball on the 20 and broke three tackles en route to the end zone and a commanding 62-44 lead. “The entire offense was on the same page today,” Cousins said. “In the first scrimmage two weeks ago, the offense wasn’t focused and everything seemed out of whack. This time around, the offense brought energy and intensity to the field and that showed in the final result. “The passing game recorded big plays every time we needed it. The receivers made plays in third-and-long and fourth-and-long situations. It’s encouraging to see the big-play potential of our passing game.” The offense closed out the 2-hour scrimmage in style as Nichol lofted an 18-yard TD pass to Blair White, who finished with a team-best eight receptions for 105 yards and two scores. “Our receivers made plays down the field when they needed to be made,” Nichol said. “The defense slowed down the running game today, but the passing game was clicking. The offense converted in third-down and red-zone situations. We also cut down the number of turnovers from the first scrimmage. Those were the important factors today.” Fourteen different receivers caught at least one pass including Keshawn Martin (6-0, 186, So.), who had four grabs for 47 yards. Myles White and Charlie Gantt (6-4, 245, Jr.) each had three catches for 75 and 56 yards, respectively. “We had a couple of guys go down in the secondary (strong safety Marcus Hyde was sidelined for the scrimmage with a leg injury and free safety Ashton Henderson suffered a sprained knee during the scrimmage),” linebacker Greg Jones said. “So some mistakes were made, but there’s nothing that can’t be fixed. We simply gave up two many big plays in the passing game. The front seven can’t afford to hesitate in key situations. We need to stay focused even when the offense is trying to pick up the tempo.” Michigan State has two practices scheduled (Tuesday, April 21 and Thursday, April 23) before concluding its 15 spring practices with the Green-White intrasquad game on Saturday, April 25 at 1:30 p.m. in Spartan Stadium. Admission is free. Prior to the spring game, MSU’s coaching staff and players will conduct a free youth football clinic (no registration required). Children, ages 8-12, are invited to attend the youth clinic from 10-11:30 a.m. on the grass practice fields behind the Duffy Daugherty Football Building , located at the corner of Chestnut Road and Shaw Lane . Clinic participants and their parents are requested to enter the practice fields through the gate on Shaw Lane . Over the last six years, nearly 2,500 children have participated in the annual youth football clinic. The purpose of the clinic is to introduce youngsters to the game by stressing fundamentals. No football gear is required. From 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m., Coach Dantonio and his players will be available for an autograph session for clinic participants. In addition, clinic participants will receive a coupon for a complimentary hot dog and soft drink to be redeemed at a concession stand in Spartan Stadium during the spring game.     

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