EAST LANSING — Even in the spring the Michigan State Spartans football team can’t help but have a close game, as junior running back Nick Hill scored with a 7-yard touchdown run with over a minute left to play to give the offense a 28-26 victory in the Spartans second “situational” scrimmage.
The offense needed more than 26 points in the two-hour, 123 play scrimmage to come away with the victory on Saturday. Hill’s game-winning touchdown capped off a 10-play, 75-yard drive which was led by senior quarterback Andrew Maxwell’s 3-of-5 passing for 42 yards.
“Andrew took a big-time hit by Ezra Robinson, but he got up and played right through it,” said MSU head coach Mark Dantonio. “He took the team down the field and scored that same series. That was about as game-like a situation as one could make it.”
While the Spartans will dearly miss running back Le’Veon Bell, who left school a year early to enter the NFL Draft, one of their goals this off-season is to find an adequate replacement, or two, in the backfield. Hill finished the scrimmage with 12 carries for 33 yards and a touchdown, while junior Jeremy Langford tallied 28 yards on six carries. However, the biggest game out of the backfield came from newly-turned running back redshirt freshman Riley Bullough. He finished with 11 carries for 43 yards and two touchdowns.
“Riley Bullough has made a quick transition because he’s only had a couple of practices at tailback,” said MSU co-offensive coordinator/running backs coach Dave Warner. “The idea heading into today’s scrimmage was to try and limit the (play) calls with him in there. We wanted to make sure that he knew what he was doing. I sort of lost track and just threw the whole offense at him, and he did good. He’s a smart kid, so he learns quickly. The quarterbacks in there helped him out a little bit too. So the bottom line is that he was running plays in there that we haven’t worked on before. So taking that all into account, he really did a great job.”
As many Michigan State fans have questioned who will be the Spartans starting quarterback heading into the season, Maxwell, who I believe will be behind center in the Spartans first game against Western Michigan, answered those questions on Saturday. The QB from Midland, Mich. went 14-of-18 for 130 yards and one touchdown, which included a 41-yard completion to Bennie Fowler on the opening drive.
“Andrew Maxwell was sharp, and he took some hits,” Dantonio said. “I sort of hold my breath a little bit because by keeping the quarterbacks live, they have to create (plays).”
Despite losing big time players in defensive end William Gholston and defensive back Johnny Adams to the NFL Draft, the MSU defense has still looked very impressive thus far in the spring. In Saturday’s scrimmage the defense was led by defensive ends Joel Heath and Denzel Drone. Heath, a sophomore, had seven tackles and a sack, while Drone added three tackles and a forced fumble.
“Joel Heath is a very good player for us,” Dantonio said. “He’s a lot like Will Gholston in terms of his size and motor. So he’s going to have an opportunity to show those types of things next season.”
The Spartans will begin their final week of spring practice on Tuesday, April 16. The annual Green-White spring game is Saturday, April 20 at 2:30 p.m. in Spartan Stadium.