EAST LANSING - Despite missing two starters on the offensive line, Michigan State found a way to make head coach Mark Dantonio's inaugural game a rousing success.
Dantonio aimed to reawaken the tradition of smash-mouth football by establishing the run as an offensive priority. But maintaining balance would be key, Dantonio and offensive coordinator Don Treadwell often pointed out.
So far so good.
The Spartans gained 298 yards on the ground to go along with 295 yards through the air.
"Offensively, certainly, (we're) proud of our young men," Treadwell said.
Captain Jehuu Caulcrick led the collective effort with 93 yards on 10 carries. His 4 rushing touchdowns tied for second most in school history. But the attack went beyond one player.
Javon Ringer compiled 80 yards on a team high 13 carries. A.J. Jimmerson darted for 51 yards on 10 mostly second half carries. Even freshman Andre Anderson got in on the action, producing 16 yards on the ground as he rotated with Jimmerson after the Spartans opened a 35-0 lead.
Caulcrick pointed to the men in the trenches as a vital component behind the offensive explosion on the ground.
"They did a tremendous job. You know, they fired off the ball, we were penalty free in the whole first half. That's something unusual around here," Caulcrick said with a chuckle. "They played with discipline, they played with speed and fire and confidence. Once you have all that, things are going to roll."
The offensive line did all that despite missing two important starters. Left tackle Mike Gyetvai (shoulder) and center John Masters (leg) missed the opener. However, versatile captain Peter Clifford filled in at tackle and sophomore Joel Nitchmen snapped the ball without missing a beat.
The collective effort by the O-line did not go unnoticed, and was, at least to Caulcrick, unsurprising. "I knew they could do that, given the opportunity to," he said. "That's something they're capable of doing."
Perhaps most importantly, unlike other teams on the first day of the season, (one in particular who plays 70 miles southeast of East Lansing) the Spartans came into the game focused and maintained discipline.
"Our guys came to play," Dantonio said.
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