The Spartans did just that, as coach Mark Dantonio noted they got plenty of meaningful snaps for young players on the roster in the 73-14 win.
“We were able to play 63 players in the first half, and that is very uncommon,” Dantonio said. "I thought our guys came out and executed very well.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback Damion Terry played his most significant action yet, appearing in the fourth series of the game in a package called “Brass.” Terry knows the importance of playing meaningful snaps at this level.
“The difference of high school to college is crazy," he said. "We can scrimmage all we want but there's still something different about being out there during a game, especially because a lot of young guys got out there in the first half.
"Going against their first-team defense, that's really big for us and just with that experience we get that comfort level.”
Terry completed one pass to Keith Mumphery for six yards during the series and played on-and-off the rest of the way. He finished 5-for-8 for 19 yards with 17 yards rushing.
Sophomore Tyler O’Connor was the third quarterback to appear in the first quarter. He got plenty of snaps with the first-string offense, including a touchdown drive on the first drive of the second half when he connected with A.J. Troup for his first career touchdown pass. He finished 4-for-5 for 58 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
”There's nothing like getting live reps,” O’Connor said. “Coach (Brad) Salem preaches the value in reps and the importance of learning as much as you can from each snap.
“It was great to get snaps at the end of the first quarter and then put together a great drive in the second quarter with the ones. When our offensive line plays like it does, the playbook is wide open.”
Among those on defense receiving more quality reps was true freshman safety Montae Nicholson. Nicholson finished with five tackles and a fumble recovery.
Junior safety R.J. Williamson said Nicholson has been a quality reserve for this team, but still has some learning to do.
“He’s going to be a great fit for us, guys go down constantly,” Williamson said. “Especially as DBs, guys get tired. You’re running around 100 percent everywhere throughout the game.
“You need somebody who can come in and nothing drops off and I think that guy is one of those people. He’s athletic, has the skillset to do everything – still has to learn, of course.”
Michigan State would go on to play 74 players in the win, including multiple walk-ons deep into the fourth quarter and all six true freshmen that had previously played this season.
“In the second half, we played a lot of young players,” Dantonio said. “We are always looking for growth from this football team. We had seven redshirt or true freshman playing at one point. There are some things we need to correct, but not many from that particular game.”