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August 10, 2013

All things quiet about QBs after scrimmage

EAST LANSING - A key senior and a true freshman made additional progress during Saturday's scrimmage at Spartan Stadium in what has already been a productive August camp for the two pivotal players.

However, we don't know much more about the QB race following this scrimmage, other than the stats that were handed out afterward. Head coach Mark Dantonio did not comment on the QBs.

Senior wide receiver Bennie Fowler and true freshman place kicker Michael Geiger enjoyed standout performances during Saturday's scrimmage, according to statistics and quotes released by Michigan State. Media were not allowed to watch. The defense won the scrimmage, 28-22.

Meanwhile, in the much-anticipated QB competition, Andrew Maxwell seemed to hold a slight edge over challenger Connor Cook.

Maxwell was 13-of-21 for 171 yards with one TD. Maxwell also completed a 16-yard pass to Aaron Burbridge to the 1-yard line.

Cook was 13-of-18 for 133 yards with no TDs.

Third-string QB Tyler O'Connor made noise with a scrimmage-high two TD passes, both of which went to Fowler.

O'Connor was the most efficient thrower of the day, completing 7-of-9 passes for 74 yards. It's not known whether any of O'Connor's passes were thrown against the first-string defense.

True freshman QB Damion Terry, playing primarily against the freshman defense, completed 4-of-7 throws for 101 yards, including a 67-yard scoring strike to walk-on WR Matt Macksood (5-11, 184, R-Fr., Lansing Catholic).

In the run game, Jeremy Langford turned in the most productive day against first-string personnel. Langford had a 1-yard TD run, and averaged 4.3 yards on his other seven carries. He finished with 31 yards on eight carries against the ones.

Langford had led all RBs in yards-per-carry average in live scrimmaging during August camp prior to Saturday's scrimmage, according to offensive coordinator Dave Warner.

The Spartans were without first-string RB Riley Bullough, who is sidelined temporarily with an undisclosed injury.

True freshman Gerald Holmes had a scrimmage-high 55 yards on seven carries. All of his carries were against second- and third-string defenses. He had runs of 25 and 15 yards.

Junior Nick Hill had a 2-yard TD run, but averaged just 2.4 yards on his other nine carries. He finished with 24 yards on 10 attempts.

Hot August

The performances by Fowler and Geiger marked a continuation of their strong start to August camp.

Fowler had five catches for 65 yard with two touchdowns. All were team-highs.

Geiger continued to uphold his rank as MSU's first-string kicker, status which was given to him by Mark Dantonio on the first day of camp.

Geiger, who was the Rivals.com No. 1-ranked high school place kicker in the country for 2013, was 7-of-8 on field goal attempts, including two 48-yarders. His lone miss hit the upright from long range.

Fowler and Geiger will play key roles for the Spartans this season, which begins on Aug. 30 against Western Michigan at Spartan Stadium.

Fowler (6-1, 212, Bloomfield, Mich.) led the Spartans in receiving yards last year, and was second in receptions with 41. He also led the team in dropped passes during a year when many expected him to rise and make a run at All-Big Ten honors. Instead, he lost his starting job for a few weeks at mid-season.

After spending extra time working on speed training, and losing 10 pounds, Fowler has put together perhaps his best string of practices as a Spartan, this month.

"Bennie Fowler caught the ball pretty well and made some nice runs after the catch," Dantonio said after the scrimmage. "He also showed leadership out there in the huddle. I liked the way he was talking to the guys."

"Bennie Fowler has done what we had hoped he would do as a senior, raise up and make plays and be a leader," Michigan State offensive coordinator Dave Warner said on Friday. "I think he has done that. I think he has stood out."

Geiger was given first-string status from day one at MSU's camp, as Dantonio sought to put pressure on the newcomer. The pressure continued on Saturday, and Geiger came through.

"Without watching the video, you've got to look at Michael Geiger as the bright spot of the scrimmage," Dantonio said. "He hit a 50-yarder (officially two 48-yarders). Michael had one bounce off the upright but other than that he was perfect, and they weren't chip shots. Right now, he's in the lead for that position."

More On The QBs

Dantonio offered no public quotes concerning the QB performances, or the race in general.

Warner said he'd be looking to see which quarterback would get the offense in the end zone. On Friday, that was Maxwell. Maxwell hooked up with sophomore WR MacGarrett Kings for a 19-yard TD in red zone situational work.

Then, with the offense getting the ball at its own 41-yard line, Maxwell led a 9-play, 58-yard scoring drive. Maxwell was 3-for-3 on the drive for 47 yards, including a 16-yard throw to Burbridge at the 1. Langford carried it in from there.

Cook was credited with leading a nine-play, 50-yard drive to the 1-yard line. But on third-and-goal, a fumbled snap forced the offense to settle for a 30-yard Geiger field goal.

The official MSU press release referred to the fumble as a "bad snap."

Dantonio didn't care whose fault it was.

"You can't fumble the football when you're at the 1-yard line going in and take seven points off the board and settle for a field goal," Dantonio said. "When it's second-and-5, you can't jump offsides and make it second-and-10. Those types of things just can't happen. Our defense plays a part with its pressure and intensity, and we expect our defense to be pretty good again. Offensively, we have to take care of the football and eliminate the unforced errors."

Cook's most explosive play of the day came on a 40-yard pass to junior tight end Andrew Gleichert. That play set up a 48-yard field goal by Geiger, the offense's last points of the day.

O'Connor's TD passes to Fowler (12 and 17 yards) came during a series of scripted third-and-long plays.

O'Connor led a TD drive on the second series of the scrimmage, driving the ball 75 yards on 11 plays. O'Connor was 5-of-5 for 45 yards on the drive. Hill finished the drive with a 2-yard TD run.

The defense sealed victory with three straight stops to end the scrimmage.

More On The Defense

Defensively, junior linebacker Taiwan Jones tied for the team lead with six tackles, with two for losses (8 yards) including a 6-yard sack. He also scooped up a fumble and ran it back 14 yards for a touchdown. No word on who committed the fumble, or who caused it.

Junior defensive end Marcus Rush had six tackles, including two sacks. Sophomore LB Darien Harris, who has been working with the third string, also had six stops.

Red-shirt freshman defensive end Jamal Lyles had two TFLs, including a 12-yard sack.

Junior defensive end Shilique Calhoun had three tackles and a 9-yard sack. Red-shirt freshman safety Demetrious Cox, junior safety Kurtis Drummond and senior LB Jairus Jones each had five tackles.

The Rest of It

Receiving: Andre Sims had five catches for 60 yards. Burbridge had four catches for 24. Kings finished with three catches for 29 yards. Macksood had two catches for 81 yards.


















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