Saturday's spring game showed why MSU's QB battle will be a true competition
By the end of the first half, Michigan State fans were probably thinking a similar thought. I know I was.
Tyler O’Connor will be the starter of this team.
That could definitely still happen. Even though he had some struggles in the red zone, Saturday showed again that he’s the more experienced, polished, MSU-like quarterback. That wasn’t news.
But anybody basing their opinions just on Saturday’s showing should pump the breaks.
Damion Terry did not look — nor will he look — like the passer that O’Connor is. Terry’s 6-of-12 passing for 70 yards didn’t match up to O’Connor’s 10-of-16 passing for 138 yards and a touchdown. If you want to pick O’Connor as your favorite simply based off that metric, you’re more than welcome to do so.
But Terry didn’t get many chances to do what he does best — run.
It was a spring game, where quarterbacks are basically untouchable. If Terry were to ever start, he would never have a game in which he threw the ball four times as much as he ran it. Because of the limitations on contact, spring games aren’t meant to show off the skill sets of mobile quarterbacks.
The moment Terry finally looked like he was in his element was when everything broke down and he sprinted to the corner of the end zone. He made a nice late adjustment and got in for the score.
It probably made some think, ‘Oh yeah, that’s why this is a true competition.’
Damion Terry scrambles for a touchdown for the White team, ruins my narrative in progress.
— Dan Murphy (@DanMurphyESPN) April 23, 2016
Those situations are harder to recreate and not always easy to evaluate. In O’Connor’s defense, he had moments of brilliance when plays broke down, too.
Mark Dantonio probably wasn’t crazy about him throwing off his back foot to a covered receiver, but it was still a completion facing pressure.
There were a lot of things Dantonio probably liked and disliked from what he saw from his two possible starting quarterbacks. O’Connor could still be the favorite, but that’s not to say the second-half version of Terry was worse than the first-half version of O’Connor.
Saturday obviously wasn’t going to make-or-break either of their chances in the eyes of Dantonio. If anything, it gave fans a look at an actual battle that’s far from over. Dantonio could run a two-quarterback system and try to keep B1G teams off-balance if he feels that Terry presents an element that makes the Spartans dangerous. Or he could decide that with all of the talent that MSU returns at tailback, he’d rather have somebody who can stretch the field vertically.
Whatever he does, don’t expect him to put significant long-term stock in what he saw Saturday. He’s going to let this thing play out.
If you had a favorite by the end of the first half on Saturday, you might be better off doing the same.