Following a season in which they dropped a nation-worst 66 passes, the Michigan State wide receivers opened the 2013 season with much of the same.
On Saturday – like the entire offense – things looked a lot different for the Spartans in their 55-17 win against Youngstown State.
"I thought today we obviously got great play from our offense," head coach Mark Dantonio said. "The most impressive thing to me was that we made those 50-50 catches – those catches that are difficult to make. We made them in crowds with people hanging on you."
Seven MSU receivers combined for 211 yards on 16 catches and three touchdowns, spurring offensive coordinator Dave Warner to say the receivers were excellent against the Penguins.
"We had a lot of the young guys going again and we mixed some other guys in throughout the game," Warner said. "I don't remember any drops and I thought we ran some pretty good routes."
Senior wideout Bennie Fowler, who had two receptions for 39 yards and a touchdown, said it also was important that they got yards after the catch – which Fowler did on both of his receptions.
"We needed to be there for the quarterback to make those 50-50 catches," Fowler said. "We also needed to pick up additional yards after the catch, and guys like MacGarrett Kings Jr. and Aaron Burbridge made big plays."
For the second week in a row, Kings Jr. led the Spartans wide receivers. Against Youngstown State, he had four catches for 61 yards and his first career touchdown – a 24-yarder from Connor Cook.
Kings' first catch of the day was a 10-yard reception on third down, which helped set up the Spartans' first touchdown. On the following drive, he had a 20-yard reception, which got the ball rolling as MSU scored its second touchdown.
The sophomore said the receivers have been putting pressure on themselves to make more plays.
"We just told each other ‘We got to go out here and make plays because every body can make plays,'" Kings said. "Put pressure on ourselves and go out here and do it."
Cook said he saw a lot of playmaking from the wide receivers, even when he didn't put the ball in the perfect spot.
"I would just throw a simple hitch and then Bennie turned that into a touchdown and made three guys miss," Cook said. "Same thing with Andre (Sims Jr), the yards after the catch. … It's reassuring, especially going into South Bend next week.
"To go in there with the stuff that we did today offensively with the wideouts, running backs running the ball and QBs making plays, it's just a good feeling."
Junior Tony Lippett joined Kings with four catches, while gaining 41 yards. Burbridge had three catches for 44 yards.