April 21, 2011

Maxwell stands out in scrimmage

EAST LANSING - Andrew Maxwell had a standout performance and Garrett Celek resurrected memories of the biggest play of 2010 during Michigan State's final Jersey Scrimmage of the spring, Thursday at Spartan Stadium.

Maxwell - a sophomore, second-string QB from Midland - completed 21 of 27 passes for 253 passes and two touchdowns, according to statistics released by Michigan State University.

The last scoring strike was a 35-yard pass to Celek on the last play of the scrimmage, on a fake field goal. The play closely resembled last year's game-winning "Little Giants" pass (Aaron Bates to Charlie Gantt) which beat Notre Dame in overtime.

Celek's touchdown set off a wild celebration on the sideline among offensive players in an otherwise empty Spartan Stadium. The play cinched a 61-55 victory for the offense in a modified scoring system. As a result, the offense will wear green jerseys in practice for the remainder of the spring, and the outset of fall camp, until the first of two Jersey Scrimmages in August, when the jerseys will be awarded once again to the winning side.

On the game-winning strike, Celek streaked down the right sideline and caught a well-thrown pass from Maxwell while working against good coverage from third-string linebacker Jeremy Gainer.

As for the field goal fake, head coach Mark Dantonio said: "We tried to set it up to get the kick, but Coach Staten made the call. But, hey it worked."

Mark Staten, MSU's offensive line coach, oversees the field goal unit. As is customary, Dantonio deferred to position coaches and coordinators for key play calls in Thursday's scrimmage.

"I don't know who to root for in these things," Dantonio said during a video interview released by the university. "All I can tell you is that there was good hitting."

Throwing mostly against the second string, Maxwell put forth the best scrimmage numbers of his career.

"I thought that Andrew Maxwell really played well," Dantonio said. "Offensively, we moved the ball down the field, had a couple of big plays."
Maxwell connected with Chris D. Rucker on deep, 48-yard TD pass while working against the third string. Rucker beat cornerback Dana Dixon on the play as Maxwell sidestepped blitzing walk-on safety Anthony Folino and went long.

"On the offensive side of the ball, guys were catching the ball well," Dantonio said. "On the defensive side, it looked like we were flying around, making tackles in space, doing the things we had to do. These guys played hard. It was a very competitive game."

First-string quarterback Kirk Cousins threw three interceptions while going 14-of-23 for 140 yards.

"Defense made some big plays out there," Dantonio said. "That was a positive to see."

Field safety Trenton Robinson and field cornerback Johnny Adams each had an interception. Robinson and Adams also posted five tackles apiece.

First-team 'Star' linebacker Denicos Allen led the starting unit with six tackles.

'Much-Improved Players'

Dantonio complimented the play of interim first-string nose guard Anthony Rashad White and first-string middle linebacker Max Bullough.

"Those guys played some last year for us, Rashad especially, and Max played in and out," Dantonio said. "Both of those guys are much-improved players. Those things have to transition now to the season."

White has played first string throughout the spring in place of 2010 starter Kevin Pickelman, who is out with a neck injury.

White, who had 17 tackles as a first-year Spartan in 2010 after transferring to MSU from Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College, has had a standout spring.

"Rashad is becoming a dominant player," Dantonio said of the Battle Creek native. "He is 323 pounds, or a biscuit past 320, but dominant."

Cunningham Back

Senior wide receiver B.J. Cunningham returned to active scrimmaging for the first time since sustaining a foot injury in December. The injury, which occurred during bowl practice, kept Cunningham out of the Capital One Bowl and most of winter conditioning. Cunningham had participated only in non-contact drills in spring practice, prior to this week.

Cunningham had five catches for 56 yards during Thursday's scrimmage.

"B.J. played, I thought, pretty well," Dantonio said.

Cunningham needs only 10 catches next fall to become MSU's all-time leader in receptions.

Second-string wide receiver Bennie Fowler, a sophomore, had five catches for 39 yards.

Dantonio said at least six starters sat out with injuries.

"It gives other people opportunities and that's the thing that I think we're recognizing, that I think we have a little bit more depth right now than we've had," Dantonio said. "That's a positive thing."

Michigan State's star running backs received limited work. Fifth-string running back Jeremy Langford led the ground game with 16 carries for 47 yards, including a 17-yard TD run.

Sophomore Le'Veon Bell capped off a 15-play, 62-yard drive with a 1-yard TD plunge.

Out Again

Thursday's scrimmage was Michigan State's 12th of 15 practices for spring football 2011.

The scrimmage was played in sunny, dry conditions, with temperatures topping out in the low 50s.

"We have been fortunate that we have gotten weather where we could go outside," Dantonio said. "This is our 10th practice outside. When you look around the Big Ten conference, not a lot of people have been able to do that. So the timing has been right for this and we are looking forward to having a big crowd out here for the spring game next Saturday."

The annual Green-White Game will kick off at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 30 at Spartan Stadium.









 

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