There may have been a bit of growing pains early on in the season, but it looks like Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio may have finally found a good rhythm with his team's increasingly experienced offense. On Sunday, the team reflected on those thoughts.
Since Dantonio crowned sophomore Connor Cook as his starter at quarterback before the fourth game this season, the Spartans' younger players have stepped up and made a significant impact on the resilient offense that started out the year on a much more sluggish note.
True Freshman R.J. Shelton and Delton Williams stepped up in an unexpected way last Saturday in helping MSU take down an Indiana team 42-28. Running back Williams combined with wide receiver Shelton for 132 of the MSU's 259 rushing yards.
First and second year Michigan State players also combined to catch 13 of Cook's 22 completions totaling 123 of the quarterback's 235 yards passing.
In all, the Spartans had 473 yards of total offense.
The Hoosiers had originally started strong and shocked the Spartan defense with a lighting-quick touchdown score within the first few plays of the game, but the Michigan State offense responded with a rally of their own; led by a number talented, young players looking to stand out and earn more playing time.
“The young guys are finally starting to catch rhythm and feel what it takes to be successful on Saturdays,” said MSU tight end Josiah Price. “ I definitely think it takes a lot of getting used to, and experience does play a big role in things.”
Price, a redshirt freshman who had a 39-yard catch for a touchdown on a third-down, added that inexperience and nerves were certainly factors early in the season for many young players, but feels that with each new game, a new sense of comfort comes along with it.
“The first few games I was super nervous. You're just out there playing and it's your first time out there in Spartan Stadium and then going to Notre Dame that was a huge experience for me,” said Price. “I feel like our confidence is growing the more we've been out there. You saw Delton Williams play really well – he got a little experience last week, and then this week he was able to play better. I think R.J. Shelton, he's gotten his feet wet here and there, and then you saw him make a big play.”
Dantonio's persistence in playing his younger players is beginning to pay off, and as a coach, he feels that the situation is going to get better each and every game.
“You have to be able to stay the course a little bit and understand some of the problems you're going to have, whether it's a young player or whatever the case,” Dantonio said. “You just keep trying to push though. We've tried to stay positive with our guys and kept saying, `When it does turn, it's going to turn in a big way.' I think (Saturday) was an indication of that.”
You can follow MSU writer, Michael Ferro, at twitter.com/MichaelFerro.