Michigan State defense beats offense in second scrimmage

EAST LANSING — Josh Butler got a good chuckled when he realized Michigan State football’s defense is a perfect 2-for-2 in scrimmages this month.

“We’re definitely winning,” the junior cornerback said after practice Monday. “It’s been good. Coach (Mark Dantonio) is making it very competitive.”

Don’t read too much into that, though.

Quarterback Brian Lewerke was pleased with the gains the 12th-ranked Spartans’ offense made in a week from the first rehearsal to Friday night’s under-the-lights second scrimmage at Spartan Stadium.

“It almost felt like we had won, honestly,” Lewerke said. “It came down to one of the last plays, so I still felt very positive about the scrimmage.”

The final score in the modified points system was not released for the second straight week, breaking from what Dantonio and his staff had done in previous years. Last year, MSU stopped providing stats from its closed preseason camp scrimmages but still released the final score, number of plays and total time.

The reality is MSU scrimmages are far from traditional football, with the ball being moved and down and distant being changed throughout. Defensive coordinator Mike Tressel wasn’t even totally sure how this one finally ended score-wise.

“Oh boy, I think the defense won, 30-27, or something like that,” he said. “It’s hard to pay attention to who won, because (Dantonio) is always gonna make it tight at the end. And really, regardless of how the scrimmage goes, it’s gonna be who wins the last series. Coach is gonna make sure you have to win in the fourth (quarter).”

Last week’s first scrimmage went longer than usual, spanning 140 plays, Lewerke estimated. He said the second was shorter, about 120 plays, and he received strong pass protection from his offensive line.

“We did a good job with deep balls. I think we had a lot of those. We scored a lot more points than we did in the last scrimmage,” Lewerke said. “I just felt like everyone seemed more fluid, and they all kind of knew where we were going.”

MSU will wrap up its preseason practices this week, picking team captains on Thursday and going through a final scrimmage that is more of dress rehearsal than competition. The Spartans will start preparing for the Aug. 31 opener against Utah State (7 p.m., Big Ten Network) on Sunday.

Defensive standouts

Tressel pointed to redshirt freshman defensive end Jack Camper and fifth-year senior safety Matt Morrissey as two of the standouts from his unit.

“What we saw that we really liked is Jack Camper keeps coming along at defensive end, where we think he can be an impact-type of guy,” Tressel said. “Morrissey is really having a great camp. And when you have (David) Dowell and (Khari) Willis as the starters, when you have a guy like Morrissey playing at an All-Big Ten level, it’s really exciting. … He’s tackling very, very well. And he’s at a point mentally right now where you feel he knows what’s coming before it’s coming. He’s really anticipating well and communicating well.”

Tressel pointed to sophomore Jacub Pansiuk and sophomore Drew Beesley along with Camper as making waves for the open defensive end spot. He also said the cornerback battle to replace Josiah Scott (left leg injury) has become mostly a two-man race between Butler and redshirt freshman Shakur Brown. Another redshirt freshman, converted safety Tre Person, also is looming.

“I feel like there is more than just three that can get out there on the football field,” Tressel said.

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