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August 21, 2011

Defense dominates

Most MSU scrimmages end up very close -- the coaches like it that way, it seems -- but on Sunday the defense apparently took it to the offense, winning 78-44 and getting pick-six plays from Johnny Adams and Tony Lippett.

    Here's the MSU release:

    The Michigan State football team conducted its second jersey scrimmage of preseason camp Sunday afternoon.
    Utilizing a modified scoring system, the defense came away with a 78-44 victory over the offense in a nearly three-hour, 183-play “situational” scrimmage.
    A majority of the scrimmage was held at Spartan Stadium, while the remainder of the plays were run on the grass practice fields behind the Duffy Daugherty Building.
    Sophomore linebacker Max Bullough recorded a team-best 11 tackles (three solos, eight assists), while fellow linebackers TyQuan Hammock (five solos, four assists) and Taiwan Jones (nine assists) tallied nine tackles apiece.
    Four turnovers helped fuel the win for the defense, which avenged a 67-63 loss to the offense in the first preseason jersey scrimmage held last Saturday.
    Tony Lippett and Johnny Adams made the two biggest plays of the day, as they each returned an interception for a touchdown. Lippett ran back his TD 33 yards, while Adams closed out the scrimmage with a 32-yard score.
    Hammock also picked off a pass and returned it 26 yards, and Taylor Calero recovered a fumble.
    Overall, the first-team defense didn’t allow a touchdown.
    Offensively, Kirk Cousins completed 11-of-25 passes for 153 yards and one interception. Andrew Maxwell was 10-of-23 for 126 yards and two interceptions.
    B.J. Cunningham (96 yards), Keith Mumphery (58) and Keith Nichol (50) each caught four passes to lead the receiving corps.
    Chris D. Rucker had the longest reception of the day, a 58-yarder from Maxwell, that helped set up a Le’Veon Bell 2-yard touchdown run. Larry Caper scored the other touchdown for the offense, running it in from 2 yards out during a goal-line situation.
    Nick Hill led the rushing attack for the second scrimmage in a row, compiling 85 yards on 25 carries. Bell and Caper finished with 68 yards and 66 yards, respectively.
    The Michigan State football team returns to action for their 18th practice of preseason camp on Monday afternoon.

    No touchdowns allowed by the first-team defense? Impressive. For the defense, anyway. Not a great day for the offense. As for Spartan Stadium, the plan was for 60 plays there and the rest on the practice field, but instead MSU ran 105 plays on the stadium grass.

    Here are Mark Dantonio's comments on the scrimmage (and the grass at Spartan Stadium), released by MSU:

    “Our intensity level was very good throughout the scrimmage. We’re really excited about the way the defense played this afternoon. The first-team defense looked very sharp, pressuring the quarterback, running to the football and tackling in space very, very well. The defense got off to a quick start and really took control after the big pick by Tony Lippett that he returned for a touchdown. Defensively, Max Bullough played very well. From ground level, it sure looked like Max made a lot of plays. Jeremy Langford (six tackles, including one for a 3-yard loss, and one pass break-up) made some plays too (for second-team defense).
    “Offensively, we can’t beat ourselves. Penalties really put us behind the eight ball. Offensively, we must eliminate the unforced penalties. Collectively, the tailbacks all played pretty well. They ran hard, broke a couple of nice runs and took care of the football. With windy conditions like today, the receivers need to catch the ball on a more consistent basis. The quarterbacks threw crisp passes right on the money, but dropped passes killed some drives. The balls will flutter some in these windy conditions, but the receivers have to make the play.
    “We thought our guys came out here with a purpose today. The guys played with intensity and toughness. We got 50-to-60 snaps each for the ones and twos and got another 40 snaps for the threes, so we got a lot accomplished.
    “We’re really pleased with the attitude of our football team. You’re never going to be perfect, but you keep striving for perfection.  We’re very excited about our toughness and how hard our guys play. With our players’ willingness to work, the execution will come.”
    Additional notes and quotes: The first 105 plays of today’s 183-play scrimmage took place inside Spartan Stadium. Head coach Mark Dantonio described the new natural grass surface as “firm and fast.” Dantonio added the natural grass playing surface “looked and played great.”

    So there you go. The grass held up, Dantonio was happy overall, and it sounds like some drops factored into the low completion percentages. We'll find out more specifics, on things such as pass protection and of course position battles, Monday.


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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter

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