Sunday, August 21, 2011

Defense dominates second scrimmage

One day after it was postponed due to thunderstorms, the defense dominated MSU's second intrasquad scrimmage with a 78-44 win on a modified scoring system.

The scrimmage lasted 183 plays and nearly three hours, but just 105 of the plays were played at Spartan Stadium. The scrimmage was wrapped up on the normal practice field. In the release, Mark Dantonio said the new field "looked and played great." Not sure if the change of venue says something about the new turf still taking root at the stadium or not. (UPDATE: According to Joe Rexrode of the Lansing State Journal, the plan was the run 60 plays on the Spartan Stadium field. So the fact they ran 105 looks like a good sign).

The story of the day was turnovers, as Johnny Adams and Tony Lippett each returned an interception for a touchdown. It was the second pick-six for Lippett in as many scrimmages. The defense as a whole had four turnovers and the first-team defense didn't allow a touchdown. The offense had won the first scrimmage, 67-63.

Defensively, linebacker Max Bullough led the way with 11 tackles. Fellow linebackers TyQuan Hammock and freshman Taiwan Jones each had nine tackles. The other turnovers came when Hammock intercepted a pass and former Southfield Christian defensive end Taylor Calero recovered a fumble.

Offensively, Kirk Cousins went 11-for-25 for 153 yards and an interception. B.J. Cunningham, Keith Nichol and Keith Mumphery each caught four passes. 

Former Chelsea running back Nick Hill led the way on the ground with 85 yards on 25 carries. The coaches clearly want to get the kid reps, because they really like him. The two offensive touchdowns were short runs by Le'Veon Bell and Larry Caper. The MSU release did not say if former Oak Park running back Edwin Baker played in the scrimmage. He has been banged up throughout camp.

Here are the quotes from Dantonio:

“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 eightball. 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.”

One would think a blowout in a scrimmage is not ideal. But considering how much firepower the offense has, perhaps it is a good sign that the defense played so well.

Some of Cousins' numbers could be attributed to dropped passes, as Dantonio mentioned. The first-team defense pressured Cousins well. I'm not sure if that should be attributed to how good the defensive line could be or if the offensive line struggled. 

Only the coaches truly know how well the scrimmage went. And if Dantonio likes the team's attitude and toughness, that should be a good sign for MSU.

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