EAST LANSING - Fifth-year Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio saw a number of positive things in the annual Green-White game Saturday. Among them was the fact that his football team has enough quality players to put two actual teams on the field rather than go with a controlled scrimmage that has become the norm at schools in the Big Ten and around the country.
"I thought our guys came out and played hard," said Dantonio. "I think when you have a game like this where you choose up teams and play against each other and you can have a full game format, I think it is a little bit more competitive and a little bit more entertaining. It creates unity among the football team. We fortunate to be able to do that, we may not always be able to." The Green squad led by Kirk Cousins, Trenton Robinson, Johnny Adams and Edwin Baker beat the White Team 24-10. The Andrew Maxwell-led White team included Jerel Worthy, B.J. Cunningham, Garrett Celek, and Michigan State basketball player Draymond Green who made a surprise appearance at tight end.
Dantonio liked what he saw from Cousins, who was 22-of-29 for 285 yards passing with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
"I thought that Cousins was very sharp, a lot of guys got involved in catching the football whether it was Keshawn (Martin), Bennie (Fowler), or Chris D. Rucker, or Lippett on a long one. I saw everybody get involved, all three of our tight ends got involved. From that standpoint it was a good day."
Dantonio was happy that neither team turned the ball over. But the fifth-year Spartan head coach would have liked fewer penalties.
"I don't think we had a turnover so that was a positive," Dantonio said. "Too many penalties, unforced penalties, but that is going to happen especially when you have a big crowd and you try and simulate all of these things. It is difficult to simulate. All in All it was a great spring for us."
Lippett played on both sides of the ball. The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder from Detroit caught a 57-yard pass from Cousins that led to touchdown pass to Dion Sims. The former Crockett standout also did well at corner.
Dantonio was asked afterward if Lippett's reps at receiver this spring would have been better allocated on defense given Michigan State's depth at receiver and lack thereof in the defensive backfield.
"He got enough reps on defense," Dantonio said. "That is the point that I wanted to make to everybody. He will get reps on defense. We will make those decisions as a coaching staff but what we have to make sure a young man is able to do, and if we are going to play him on offense at some time you have to make sure he can line up correctly. In order to line up correctly you have to know what things are called and there is a whole terminology that is over there. You have to be able to do that. You have to be able to walk before you can run the offensive side of the ball. Defense is more about reaction. It is more about technique. There are fewer things to learn but you have to be able to do them. You can play corner a lot faster than you can play wide out at times."
Sims emerged as Cousins' go-to receiver for the day. Sims had four catches for 63 yards, including a pair of TD receptions.
Cousins hooked up with Sims in the first-quarter on a 2-yard play-action pass to give the Green team a 7-0 lead.
And then Cousins and Sims put the game away with a 42-yard scoring strike to make it 24-10 with 4:24 remaining.
On that play, Sims gathered in a pass on a short out route, busted through the tackle attempt of safety Isaiah Lewis, and then received a good block from Keith Nichol to get loose down the sideline.
Bennie Fowler had five catches for 34 yards for Cousins' Green team. Chris D. Rucker had 3 catches for 68 yards, including a 39-yarder on a bubble screen, squeezing past Kurtis Drummond on the edge to turn the corner and sprint down the sideline.
Nichol had 3 catches for 44 yards. Nichol didn't take any reps at quarterback, but Dantonio said Nichol will need to become prepared to play that position in the fall in case of emergency.
"He needs to be a guy that can play as a third quarterback," Dantonio said. "And he is a great wide receiver, you saw that again today, he made some great catches, but he also needs to take some reps at quarterback so that he can be a guy if we need a guy at that position."
Andrew Maxwell completed 9 of 21 passes for 120 yards. He found Keshawn Martin on a 38-yard TD pass early in the fourth quarter to cut the Green's lead to 14-10.
Dan Conroy then extended the Green's lead to 17-10 with a 44-yard field goal amid swirling winds with 6:18 to play.
That put the ball back in Maxwell's hands with a chance to drive for a potential game-tying touchdown. But the White team was stuffed on fourth-and-1 when Green's Anthony Rashad White stopped Le'Veon Bell for no gain.
Cousins then hit Sims on the next snap to ice the game.
Bell led all rushers with 46 yards on 8 carries.
Martin had 27 yards rushing on 5 carries, including a 15-yard keeper out of the Wildcat formation, and an 11-yard loss on a counter to the weakside out of a trick formation which utilized one offensive lineman to the left of the center and five o-linemen to the right of the center. The White team had some success running Bell to the strong side behind that alignment, but when the White tried to counter back to the light side, the Green defense stuffed it for a loss, turning a second-and-4 at the 8-yard line into third-and-long.
After Lippett successfully defended a fade route to B.J. Cunningham on third down, back-up place kicker Kevin Muma drilled a 28-yard field goal on the last play of the first half, to cut the Green's lead to 7-3 at the half.
Nick Hill carried the ball three times for 4 yards for the White.
Martin led the White with three catches for 64 yards. Tight end Garrett Celek had two catches for 28, including a 22-yarder.
Bell had 2 catches for 19 yards and Cunningham had 2 catches for 17 yards.
New punter Mike Sader, a freshman who is succeeding former captain Aaron Bates, had a good day, with a 41.8 yard average on five attempts.
Defensively, sophomore safety Isaiah Lewis led the White with eight tackles. He would have had 10 if he had gotten Sims to the ground on two opportunities in the fourth quarter.
"I have no excuse for that," Lewis said. "He's big and quick, but a good safety has to get him down."
Kyler Elsworth had six tackles at the 'star' linebacker position. He is likely to be second-string on the depth chart in the fall behind Denicos Allen.