Defense wins second Michigan State scrimmage

Published 6:02 pm Saturday, April 18, 2015

Jermaine Edmondson's interception late in Saturday's scrimmage gave the Green team the lead for good at 33-31. Edmondson also contributed four tackles in the defense’s 43-37 victory over the offense. (Photo by/ MATTHEW MITCHELL, MSU Athletic Communications)

Jermaine Edmondson’s interception late in Saturday’s scrimmage gave the Green team the lead for good at 33-31. Edmondson also contributed four tackles in the defense’s 43-37 victory over the offense. (Photo by/ MATTHEW MITCHELL, MSU Athletic Communications)

EAST LANSING — The defense used two interceptions, a fumble recovery in the end zone, and a safety to rally past the offense, 43-37, in the second spring scrimmage on Saturday in Spartan Stadium. The controlled scrimmage, which utilized a modified scoring system, was 138 plays long (including special teams) and lasted nearly two-and-a-half hours under sunny skies and temperatures near 70.

“It was a great scrimmage really,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “Offensively, we played very well. We ran the ball effectively. Both Madre London and Gerald Holmes had some nice runs. The yards (gained) after contact really impressed me. Both guys were able to slide off tackles and get vertical with the football. (Connor) Cook was very sharp. Jamal Lyles made some plays in the passing game. Macgarrett Kings made plays as well and I thought R.J. Shelton and AJ Troup played well. The offensive line didn’t give up many sacks either. We had zero turnovers until the very end of the game (had turnovers on three-straight possessions late), then things sort of turned.

Safety Montae Nicholson led the defense with 10 tackles, while defensive back Demetrious Cox had eight stops with a pass break-up. Linebackers Shane Jones and Darien Harris tallied six and five tackles each, respectively, and Riley Bullough collected three stops, including 1.5 for losses (5 yards) with a 4-yard sack for a safety. Defensive end Montez Sweat had a productive scrimmage, delivering five solo tackles including two for losses (5 yards) with a 2-yard sack; he also forced a fumble that led to a touchdown, which was recovered in the end zone by Vayante Copeland. Jermaine Edmondson and Malik McDowell both had interceptions.

“It really was a great pick by (Jermaine Edmondson) and he ran it back to the 4-yard line,” Dantonio said. “The offense committed three turnovers late, two in ‘coming out’ situations from the goal line, and that’s why the defense won the game. There were some great individual plays, and I saw a lot of positive things on both sides of the ball. There also was some great hitting in this scrimmage. Defensively, Tyriq Thompson, Shane Jones and Vayante Copeland all took steps forward. Those are three guys you haven’t heard as much about this spring, but they had very solid scrimmages today.

“We’ve got good defensive ends. They’re big, rangy guys … around 6-5 and they can run. Montez Sweat and Gerald Owens made some plays today. As these younger plays get more reps, they continue to get better and better. It’s exciting to watch those guys out here.”

Offensively, Connor Cook completed 17-of-26 throws for 178 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, while Damion Terry was 6-of-10 passing for 52 yards and one touchdown and Tyler O’Connor was 3-of-7 for 25 yards with the second team.

The ground attack gained 208 yards overall, led by Madre London, who had 18 carries for 100 yards, including runs of 29, 18 and 16 yards. London also scored two rushing touchdowns (1 yard and 2 yards). Gerald Holmes rushed 12 times for 45 yards, including a long of 16 yards.

DeAnthony Arnett hauled in seven catches for 46 yards to lead the receivers, followed by Macgarrett Kings Jr. (4 for 39 yards), Jamal Lyles (3 for 57, one TD) and AJ Troup (3 for 42).

The offense got off to an early lead as Cook directed a four-play, 46-yard touchdown drive on the second series, capped by a 16-yard scoring strike to Lyles.

Three series later, the offense increased its advantage to 14-6 after driving 75 yards on nine plays. A 32-yard run by R.J. Shelton was the longest play of the drive, which ended on a 2-yard TD run by Terry.

Although the defense made a few stops to put some points on the board midway through the scrimmage, back-to-back touchdown drives by the offense pushed its lead to 31-15. Another 75-yard drive, this time in 10 plays, was finished off on a 1-yard TD run by London. Cook was 5-of-6 passing for 61 yards on the drive, including a 21-yard completion to Lyles to the 1-yard line that set up London’s touchdown.  Terry then directed a nine-play, 55-yard drive, which included an 18-yard run by London and concluded with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Paul Lang.

Still trailing 31-21, the defense took advantage of poor field position by the offense, resulting in several big plays that turned the tide of the scrimmage. On the first play from the 4-yard line, Riley Bullough sacked Cook on a 4-yard loss for a safety, giving the defense the spark it needed for a comeback.

The next series again started deep in the offense’s own territory. London started the drive with an impressive 32-yard run to give the offense breathing room, but Cook was intercepted on the ensuing play by Edmondson, who ran the ball back 32 yards to the 4-yard line to give the defense its first lead, 33-31.

The defensive pressure continued two plays later, as Sweat knocked the ball loose from Nick Tompkins at the goal line, and Vayante Copeland scooped it up in the end zone for a touchdown.

The first-team offense responded by driving the ball to the 17-yard line, but the defense forced a turnover for the third consecutive series as McDowell picked off a Cook pass on third-and-9 to make it 43-31.

The offense closed the scrimmage on a five-play, 25-yard drive capped by a 2-yard rushing TD by London, making the final 43-37 in favor of the defense.

Following the conclusion of the scrimmage, the team participated in the second student clinic of the spring, where MSU students had a chance to interact with the players and run drills in Spartan Stadium. The seventh annual women’s clinic, hosted by head coach Mark Dantonio and his wife Becky, was held later in the afternoon at the Skandalaris Center and the Duffy Daugherty Football Building.

Michigan State will return for its 13th practice of the spring on Tuesday.

“We’ll have one more big, full-contact practice on Tuesday,” Dantonio said. “So we’ll try to get a lot of things done that day. Thursday we’ll practice in shorts, then Saturday, we’ll play the Green and White game in the stadium. So it will be an exciting spring game, and we look for a great crowd.”


Second Spring Scrimmage Recap

Time elapsed: 2:25 (138 total plays including special teams)


Stat Leaders

Passing: Connor Cook 17-of-26 for 178 yards, one touchdown (16 yards to Jamal Lyles) and two interceptions; Damion Terry 6-of-10 for 52 yards and one touchdowns (4 yards to Paul Lang).


Rushing: Madre London 18-100 (2 TDs); Gerald Holmes 12-45.


Receiving: DeAnthony Arnett 7-46; Macgarrett Kings Jr. 4-39; Jamal Lyles 3-57 (1 TD); AJ Troup 3-42.


Defense (solos-assists-total): Montae Nicholson 4-6-10; Demetrious Cox 3-5-8 and a pass break-up; Shane Jones 2-4-6 including a half tackle for loss (1 yard); Montez Sweat 5-0-5 including two tackles for losses (5 yards), a 2-yard sack and a forced fumble; Darien Harris 0-5-5; Jermaine Edmondson 1-3-4 including a 32-yard interception; Vayante Copeland 3-1-4 including a fumble recovery for a touchdown; Shilique Calhoun 3-0-3 including a 6-yard sack; Malik McDowell 0-3-3 including an interception; Riley Bullough 1-2-3 including 1.5 tackles for loss (5 yards) and a 4-yard sack.