That was the story of the afternoon as Michigan State's defensive units beat the offensive units 67-61 in a controlled scrimmage that used a modified scoring system.
The defense showed their strength early and often, building a 24-1 lead despite missing some key players.
Starting safety Roderick Jenrette was out, away from the team for undisclosed personal reasons. Starting WILL Linebacker Eric Gordon was also absent, along with Brandon Long and Trevor Anderson, the team's starters at defensive end.
"We don't talk about injuries," head coach Mark Dantonio said. He did say, however, that there were no serious injuries to starters and most players who sat out did so for precautionary reasons with bumps and bruises acquired from two-a-days.
The attrition didn't slow down the defense, though. Linebacker Greg Jones was his usual active self, playing the strong side position as Adam Decker manned the middle for the first unit. Jones made numerous big plays and put the pressure on Brian Hoyer, but he's not satisfied
"Even though we're a better defense, there's still small things we can get better at day-to-day," Jones said after the contest. Jones had six total solo tackles, three of which were for a loss along with two sacks.
Chris L. Rucker also shined for the defense, covering his man like flypaper and jumping routes to disrupt passes. Rucker may play an even more prominent role as the season nears with Kendell Davis-Clark, normally a starting cornerback, filling in admirably at safety for the missing Jenrette.
"I though defensively, we played pretty well against the run especially," Dantonio said, "we were physical."
On offense, Dantonio said he knows what kind of talent and ability Javon Ringer brings to the table and kept him on the sidelines for the afternoon.
In his absence, the squads mustered 68 total ground yards on 28 carries between the big three competing for playing time behind Ringer: Andre Anderson, Ashton Leggett and A.J. Jimmerson. No one runner pulled away from the pack and the competition looks like it will continue throughout camp.
Mark Dell continued to make a push as the go-to receiver for the Spartans. He took an inside slant 75 yards and also scored on an 18-yard touchdown pass, deftly thrown by Hoyer over the head of a defender.
"It was a good pass by Hoyer," Dell said of the slant that hit him in stride before he was off to the races. "As a receiving corps we started to pick it up toward the end and that's what I tried to do today." Dell finished the afternoon with 3 catches for 97 yards and a touchdown. Hoyer made sound decisions and finished 10-23 for 197 yards and three touchdowns.
Dantonio said the next step is to intensify the game-planning for California as the next week rolls through. The Spartans will travel to play the Golden Bears in Berkley on Aug. 30 in a nationally televised primetime game on ABC.