Usually, the color-theme for anything involved with Michigan State University is of course green. But on Saturday afternoon’s Spring Green and White game at Spartan Stadium, the theme was all White.
The White team, led by Oklahoma-transfer and Lowell-native, Keith Nichol, won the overtime shootout, 38-37. The split-squad (decided through a draft by the seniors) will enjoy steak entrees at the next team dinner while the Green team will try to enjoy franks and beans. But the win wasn’t easy.
Both Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol had tremendous games for their respective sides each throwing for 357 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. The impressive play from both sophomore quarterbacks resolved absolutely nothing on the quarterback race to replace Brian Hoyer.
Fighting off constant spots of rain, lightning and Head Coach Mark Dantonio patrolling the huddles with a headset around his stone-face, both quarterbacks used White to succeed, albeit a different White.
Junior Blair White led the Green squad with 89 receiving yards on a team-high six receptions. Yet while Blair White was busy proving his worth in the present, freshman receiver Myles White was giving glimpses of his future in East Lansing.
Myles White led the White team with 86 yards which included miraculously catching a well—thrown 39 yard touchdown pass from Nichol through double coverage that put White up 31-24 with 50 seconds left in regulation. The crowd erupted.
“That was just a jump-ball,” said one fan. “Wow!”
But the game was far from over.
The very first play after the ensuing kickoff featured a laser-beam strike from Cousins to Blair White that gained a big chunk of yardage and put the Green offense inside the White’s zone. Two passes to Chris D.
Rucker later, Green was inside the 10 with seven seconds left. Immediately, Cousins tried to hit Blair White with a fade pass at the corner of the end zone that went incomplete—leaving two seconds on the clock.
Junior tight end Charlie Gantt stumbled off the line on an inside slant and Cousins struck him as he crossed the goal line for a touchdown, making the score 31-30.
An excessive celebration penalty would be called after Cousins took his helmet off as crowd erupted again and the Green team rushed the field—pushing the extra point kick back but was still good.
With a projected 22,000 fans standing across the stadium, White took the field on offense to begin the overtime session. The extra time gave the quarterbacks extra time to battle it out.
After several runs to red-shirt freshmen Ashton Leggett, Nichol threw a 17 yard laser-beam over what seemed like five defenders to Brian Linthicum, taking the offense to a first-and-goal from the three. A play-action pass and yet another great, one-handed catch by tight end David Duran put the White up, 38-31 with the extra point.
The ensuing Green possession saw Cousins strike Blair White yet again on a crucial third-and-eleven for 22 yards. With first-and-goal from the five, the White defense stood their ground taking the Green offense to fourth-and-goal from the one-yard-line.
Like Nichol, Cousins took a play action pass to the right side hitting junior fullback, Josh Rouse for the touchdown.
Yet Green would go for the game…and the glory.
Going for the two-point conversion, Cousins took yet another play action bootleg to the right side. But the White had packed it in and, without finding anything before being rushed, Cousins just threw it up but was ultimately intercepted in the end zone.
All of that came after Cousins and the Green squad battle back from a 17-0 deficit in the second quarter, running off 21 straight points that gave them a 21-17 lead going into the incredible final quarter.
“This is what we see every day,” Gantt said. “Both of them going at it. All day, every day.”
Green Team Head Coach Dan Roushar was pleased with the quarterback play as well.
“In my opinion, it looks like the quarterbacks played awfully well; you could really see their play-making ability on both sides. I thought that our kids played hard and this game is about making plays, and there were some kids making plays out there, so it was a lot of fun,” Roushar said.
“Offensively speaking, we are obviously very pleased with our quarterback situation. I thought both responded when they were down, both showed good leadership and both made plays. White was up 17-0, and [Kirk] Cousins brought them back with precision throwing…” Dantonio reiterated.
“Guys made catches, guys made big plays.”
Indeed, they did. But penalties were noted.
“What are we disappointed in is that there were legitimate penalties. We can't run out on the field to celebrate like that. So too many penalties I guess, too many unforced penalties,” Dantonio stated.
Now, it is up to the coaches, media and fans to evaluate those performances to fill out a roster expected to have another great season. The hardest part may be picking who the starting game-caller will be.
“We are just going to continue on as we have. Give them opportunities to play and evaluate those opportunities,” Dantonio said.