- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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We wrap up our look at the weekend spring games in the Big Ten with a review of Michigan State's Green-White game. A crowd of about 22,500 watched the White beat the Green 24-17.
Star of the game: Receiver Aaron Burbridge had five catches for 113 yards.
How it went down: Sometimes we learn brand new things in spring games. Other times, they merely serve to reinforce our preexisting notions.
Michigan State's scrimmage certainly falls in the latter camp. Stop us if you've heard this one before: the Spartans' defense looks incredibly strong, while the team's offense -- especially its passing game -- is shaky at best. No, really.
Two of the game's five touchdowns were scored by the defense -- a 25-yard interception return by Chris Laneaux and a 41-yard fumble return by Kyler Elsworth. The quarterback competition, meanwhile, hardly cleared itself up.
Incumbent starter Andrew Maxwell completed 9-of-20 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown, the game-winner to A.J. Troup. He was also victimized by a few dropped balls by receivers, which was a recurring problem last season. Connor Cook threw for 217 yards and a score but also went just 10-of-26. Tyler O'Connor was picked off twice.
As he did in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Cook showed a better ability to make plays on the move than Maxwell. After the game, though, head coach Mark Dantonio said Maxwell would enter fall camp as the No. 1 quarterback "based on knowledge and consistency in terms of performance."
"[But] I think Connor Cook pushes him," Dantonio said, "and quite frankly if Cook doesn't make mistakes that can be easily omitted, he's right there. Because I think he throws the ball and moves well in the pocket."
Burbridge proved himself as Michigan State's top receiver, while Troup, a walk-on, showed he could make some plays by taking a short Maxwell pass 46 yards for a score. DeAnthony Arnett added a 22-yard touchdown catch.
Riley Bullough, who was moved from linebacker to running back near the end of spring practice, led all rushers with 48 yards on 11 carries, though he did have a fumble that Elsworth returned for a score. He showed that could at least help the offense, though Michigan State still anxiously awaits the arrival of three freshmen this summer who will try to seize the starting tailback job.
The highlight of the day for the offense was when Bullough completed a pass to older brother Max Bullough, who was moonlighting at tight end from his usual middle linebacker spot.
"I think they [the defense] prepared for that exactly zero times," defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said.
But the defense didn't have a lot of trouble on a day when the two offenses combined for just 91 rushing yards on 32 attempts and misfired on 31 of 54 pass attempts. You can say the offense needs a ton of work -- and it does -- but don't forget that the Spartans had to face their own defense, which once again looks like potentially the best in the Big Ten.
"I feel stronger about our defense this year than I did last year going into the season,” Dantonio said.