Tyler O’Connor went into Michigan State’s spring football game on Saturday as the leading candidate to take over as the No. 1 quarterback in the fall and appeared to solidify his chances of being the starter with a game where he did a lot of good things and avoided mistakes.
O’Connor, a fifth-year senior from Lima Central Catholic, was 10 of 16 passing for 138 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions as the starter for the Green team in the intra-squad game. He rushed for 28 yards on four carries.
Damion Terry, probably his top competitor for the starting job, hit 6 of 12 passes for 70 yards and rushed for 11 yards on three carries for the White team, which won the game 14-11. One of Terry’s carries was a three-yard touchdown run.
O’Connor led a four-play, 70-yard drive in the fourth quarter for the Green team’s only touchdown. He ended that drive with a 13-yard touchdown throw to freshman Cam Chambers after moving his team down the field with completions of eight yards and 22 yards and a run of 27 yards.
He also hit four passes in a row to four different receivers on a drive late in the first half that ended with a bad snap on a field goal attempt.
Redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke (2 of 9 for 42 yards) and early enrollee freshman Messiah DeWeaver (2 of 6 for 27 yards) also took snaps at quarterback.
MSU coach Mark Dantonio said, “I thought Tyler O’Connor played pretty well,” on the Big Ten Network telecast of the game and quarterbacks coach Brad Salem said he had been “really, really consistent” this spring.
Former Michigan State quarterback Jim Miller, the analyst on the BTN telecast, described O’Connor as being “much, much further along in the playbook” than his competitors and said, “He feels comfortable in doing what he is asked to do.”
“It’s pretty apparent Tyler O’Connor is the clubhouse leader but that is not to say the quarterback competition is over,” Miller said.
Dantonio has said throughout spring practice that the decision on who will be the No. 1 quarterback will not be made until the beginning of the season, possibly even after the Spartans have played some games.
A few other items:
LOW NUMBERS: Spring football games don’t attract 100,000 fans or close to that number most places.
Michigan State drew an announced crowd of 51,000 on Saturday, which is a record for the Spartans, but not everybody in the Big Ten came close to that crowd.
Wisconsin fans are among the most passionate – some would say crazy – fans in college football during the season, but their enthusiasm doesn’t carry over to the Badgers’ spring game, which drew an announced attendance of 9,181 on Saturday.
Wisconsin’s players say this lack of fans for the spring game doesn’t bother them. “I just wish my mom comes, honestly,” quarterback Bart Houston told Madison television state WKOW earlier last week.
Big Ten West Division champion and Rose Bowl participant Iowa attracted 18,460 fans to its spring game on Saturday.
NO HOLDING BACK ABOUT BOSA: Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson made no attempt to downplay the expectation that freshman Nick Bosa could be an immediate contributor during an interview session with OSU assistant coaches last week.
“The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree,” he said about the younger brother of All-American defensive lineman Joey Bosa.
“You know what he has that is in there. I’ve had a chance to work with Nicky at camps. I’ve spent some time with him and talked to him. I think he has a chance to be a special player,” Johnson said.
Bosa had surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament late in his senior season of football last fall, but Johnson said he is “so far ahead right now with the knee it’s ridiculous.”
“I think the doctor is even surprised by how far ahead he is. Now the thing is to kind of slow him down, get him in here in June and don’t push him too fast. Get him to camp in August healthy and see where it goes from there,” he said.
THREE-POINT TURNAROUND: One of the things former Kalida boys basketball coach Dick Kortokrax said during his resignation/retirement press conference on Friday was that there had been a big change in his feelings about the three-point shot during coaching career.
“At first I hated it, but then I realized how it made the game much fairer for the perimeter people. I really appreciate the three-point shot now,” he said.
I can verify he was no fan of it at the beginning but didn’t take long to start using it effectively.
His words on Friday reminded me of a conversation I had with him on the three-pointer many years ago. It was in 1987, the first season it was going to used in Ohio high school, but it was before any games had been played with the new rule in effect.
“I don’t like it,” I remember him saying. “You could work and work for the whole game and get a two-point lead and then somebody could hit a shot from behind the half line right at the end of the game and you would get beat because it counted for three points.”