EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State will welcome Youngstown State to Spartan Stadium this Saturday in a matchup that could be pivotal for MSU moving forward.
Despite the fact that Michigan State will face Notre Dame in a little more than a week, the Spartans (2-0) realize how important this week’s game vs. the Penguins (2-0) (FCS) is to their progression as an offense before they head into the heart of their 2013 schedule.
“With these past two games we definitely see our weaknesses,” said senior right tackle Fou Fonoti. “Coming into Youngstown State, I definitely know that they’re going to come to play. Two years ago they came out here and they were hitting us in the mouth.
“With that being said, we definitely gotta come out here and improve on the things that we’ve definitely been lacking on; picking up our passing game, continuing to improve our rushing.”
The quarterback carousel for the Spartans is still in full effect this week as Dantonio announced that sophomore Connor Cook will get the start. Cook got his first career start in last Saturday’s victory over South Florida and completed 6 of 11 passes for 32 yards. Senior Andrew Maxwell and redshirt freshman Tyler O’Connor also saw action last week and passed for a combined 6 of 13 for 62 yards.
However, with the Michigan State offense failing to generate very many points — only accounting for two of the six touchdowns on the season — Dantonio and coaching staff may have finally decided to let true freshman Damion Terry get a shot as the signal caller. Terry, who entered his name in the starting quarterback race in August, practiced this week as the No. 2 quarterback, but it has not been said whether or not he will see the field.
The receiver position — a continues area of concern for the offense — has seen a pretty drastic change over the past two weeks as well.
Sophomore Macgarrett Kings Jr., who got his first start vs. South Florida, will start again for the Spartans against Youngstown. Kings Jr. had three catches for 24 yards in his starting debut, and his 38 yards on the season places him second behind junior wide receiver Keith Mumphery.
True freshman receiver R.J. Shelton saw action against South Florida which caused him to lose his possible redshirt season, and it was enough for Dantonio to not only be impressed with the 5-foot-11 running back turned receiver, but place him behind Mumphery on the depth chart.
“I was pleased with R.J. Shelton,” Dantonio said after the victory over South Florida. “I thought he performed. He ran a couple plays and ran a reverse, but he didn’t bat an eye. I think he’ll be an outstanding receiver for us.”
With so many question marks on the offensive side of the ball heading into Saturday’s game, this week could be a final tryout before coaches are locked in on starters and rotations.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Youngstown, but I would think this is the last time we rotate as man guys as we are in,” said redshirt freshman tailback Riley Bullough. “We gotta perform, everyone’s gotta perform, we gotta get a lot better. That’s everyone’s mindset. We are all competing right now at basically every position on the offense, so everyone’s working.”
With this offense mimicking a chicken with its head cut off, scrambling to find their identity, the defense has been the clear-cut backbone of this Michigan State team.
The defense is accountable for four of the Spartans six touchdowns on the season, and three of those have come from sophomore defensive end Shilique Calhoun.
Regardless of the amount of confidence this defense currently possesses, they could get a reality check from a Youngstown State offense that is fresh off a 67-point outing against Morehead State. In the victory the Penguins posted a school-record 718 yards of total offense. They were 7 of 10 on third down conversions and had 33 first downs (one less than the Spartans had in their two games).
“They’ve played what their schedule has put in front of them,” senior linebacker Max Bullough said. “Whoever they were playing they did the best they could do against who they were playing. They don’t get to pick who they play, so I think they they did the most with what they were given, and they showed they could play well and they have a good offense.”
The game will start at approximately 2 p.m. and will be shown on the Big Ten Network.