Spartans Still Figuring Things Out On Offense
NOAH TRISTER, AP Sports Writer
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — After another uninspiring win as a heavy favorite, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio was asked if his quarterback situation is any more settled.
There was no point in sugar coating the answer.
“I don’t think it’s any clearer — they scored one touchdown today,” Dantonio said. “I could come in here and be politically correct or I could just tell you as it is. I think more people would rather hear me tell it as it is.”
The Spartans gave three quarterbacks a chance against South Florida on Saturday — one more than in their season opener the previous week — but it didn’t much matter who was in. Michigan State won 21-6, but the offense managed only one touchdown, on a 33-yard drive set up by a short punt.
The defense has scored four of the team’s six touchdowns this season, including three by Shilique Calhoun. The sophomore defensive lineman scored on a fumble return and an interception return Saturday.
“Our job is to stop them,” defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said. “We try to stay locked in to what our job is. We start worrying about other things, we’ll have problems. We did a great job last year doing that and we’ll continue to do it.”
Michigan State’s defense hasn’t been a concern for a while, but with a tough game against Notre Dame coming up in a couple weeks, followed by the Big Ten schedule, the pressure is on for the offense to right itself.
Connor Cook, Tyler O’Connor and Andrew Maxwell all played at quarterback Saturday. Dantonio said freshman Damion Terry, another option at quarterback, wasn’t able to take any reps during the week because of strep throat and a thumb injury. Terry hasn’t played in a game yet.
The offense’s struggles have been constant, lending credence to the theory that the quarterbacking isn’t the only problem. As a team, Michigan State went 12 of 24 passing for 94 yards against South Florida (0-2).
Maxwell, the starter last season, didn’t play in the first half, but he came on to start the third quarter.
“You have to be flexible. I knew there was a possibility that I’d be called upon at halftime to start the second half, so I had to lock in and focus,” Maxwell said. “We moved the ball, but unfortunately, we had some drive stoppers: penalties, negative plays, turnovers. We did some good things on the ground, but we have to get production from the passing game and finish drives.”
Michigan State (2-0) finally scored an offensive touchdown in the fourth quarter when Jeremy Langford ran 2 yards for a touchdown.
Michigan State’s defense scored two of the team’s three touchdowns in a season-opening win over Western Michigan. That included a fumble return by Calhoun, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound defensive end.
Calhoun opened the scoring Saturday with a 4-yard fumble return in the second quarter, and with Michigan State clinging to a 7-6 lead in the third, South Florida’s Bobby Eveld was hit as he threw. The ball floated to Calhoun, who returned it 56 yards for another touchdown.
“They’re smart, they’re strong, they’re long, they’re well coached and they’ve got some good players over there on that side of the ball,” South Florida coach Willie Taggart said. “When you run to the football, I don’t care who you are, good things happen. You’re always in position to make plays.”
The problem for Michigan State is that the defense can only do so much. Next weekend, the Spartans host Youngstown State, but with Notre Dame coming up the following weekend, there isn’t much time left for Michigan State to evaluate all of its options under center.
“We’ve got to try to get something rolling,” Dantonio said. “There were not enough points being put on the board and not enough explosive plays.”
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