By now, we’re all aware that the start to the 2017 offseason for Michigan State football can be summed up in one word – tumultuous.
Three unnamed players are currently suspended due to an ongoing sexual assault criminal investigation. The allegations have led to a Title IX investigation, as well as an independent external investigation into the program’s handling of the allegations. And there’s an investigation into Director of College Advancement and Performance, Curtis Blackwell’s conduct, as he is suspended with pay.
Obviously with the investigations ongoing, and simply the sheer severity of the topic at hand, the situation is never far from mind for fans, and more specifically, for Mark Dantonio and members of the football program. But for a couple of hours on April 1st, it was nice to see the program get back to simply playing football in the annual Green and White Spring Game.
The offense played as the Green team this year, the defense as the White team (in years past, there was a player “draft” to have more of a game-type atmosphere, but with the suspensions, injuries and players not participating in the game, Mark Dantonio chose to forego that this year).
The White team (defense) won the game 33-23.
For anyone who isn’t aware of how the game and scoring works, here’s a quick rundown:
- The offense plays by regular scoring rules, and needs 25 points to win (28 if the defense causes a turnover).
- The defense gets three points for every five minutes of play.
- The defense also gets three points for creating a turnover.
- The defense gets seven points for a turnover inside of either 10-yard line or for a defensive touchdown.
The first half was highlighted by redshirt freshman QB Brian Lewerke and freshman WR Trishton Jackson. By what was shown in this game, Lewerke, who started two games last season, solidified himself as a quality starting quarterback, and Jackson looked like he could be the next star receiver in the Big Ten.
The opening possession for the offense was dominated by the combo of Lewerke and Jackson. The two connected three times on the drive, highlighted by completions of 39 yards and 32 yards. The drive was capped off by a short three-yard touchdown pass on play action from Lewerke to Colin Lucas.
Lewerke threw for 305 yards, two TDs and an interception on the day.
That pick was by freshman CB Austin Andrews in the 2nd quarter – it came on an overthrow, and Andrews was “playing centerfield” on the play.
Trishton Jackson finished with eight catches for 168 yards. In the 4th quarter, he made a circus one-handed catch along the sidelines, but he was called for offensive pass interference on the play, so it did not count on the stat sheet.
Another offensive standout was RB Madre London – he rattled off a 75-yard rushing touchdown in the 2nd quarter through a wide-open hole created by the offensive line, which gave the Green squad a 16-12 lead at that moment.
Gerald Holmes also had a solid game at running back for the Green team. Holmes and London took the lion share of the carries, with L.J. Scott not playing (Coach Dantonio addressed Scott’s absence after the game, stating that he had surgery following the season, and although Scott is getting close to being ready, he won’t participate in any spring activities).
Dantonio stood on the field the entire game behind the plays. He had a microphone that he used to get the crowd loud and excited, especially on special teams plays. He later used that microphone to pace the game itself – with the Green team down 30-23, needing 31 points to win, Brian Lewerke had them inside the White 5-yard line with only three seconds left on the clock. Dantonio requested that 20 seconds be put on the clock to try to give the offense a chance to tie or win the game. Lewerke went 1-2 in those 20 seconds, but a pass in the endzone as time expired was dropped.
There’s still five months before Dantonio and the Spartans take the field for a real game that counts – September 2nd against Bowling Green. But for a couple of hours on an early April day, the program was able to put the rocky start to the offseason behind them and just do what they do best – play football.