Spartans hold spring game under cloud of investigation

Michigan State determined the spring showcase must go despite calls to cancel the game because of the seriousness of the allegations that three players and a staffer are facing.
AP

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Mark Dantonio didn’t put 15 of his football players, three of whom are suspended due to a sexual assault investigation, in uniform for Michigan State’s spring game.

Dantonio chose to provide clarity for only one of those Spartans.

After running back LJ Scott told The Associated Press he was not suspended or injured during a brief interview on the field, Dantonio said Scott was not suited up Saturday because he had offseason surgery.

That left at least some people wondering which of the 14 other players are potentially facing criminal charges.

Dantonio, though, declined to provide any clarity.

“We don’t talk about injuries and obviously we’re not any of the other suspensions,” he said.

Earlier in the week, Dantonio broke his silence on the subject in closely guarded comments. He was asked about the possibility that players who miss the spring game might come under suspicion and whether he thought it was fair to players who might miss it for reasons not related to sexual assault allegations.

“You’ll be the person lumping them in,” Dantonio said. “So if you write about it, no, I don’t think it’s fair.”

The school announced nearly two months ago that three, unidentified players and a staff member associated with the football program were suspended due to their roles in an alleged sexual assault. Prosecutors have not announced whether the four will face charges.

With a cloud hovering over the program on a relative warm and very sunny day, Michigan State determined the spring showcase must go on despite calls to cancel the game because of the seriousness of the allegations that three players and a staffer are facing.

Why?

“I think we needed to move forward,” Dantonio said. “I told our players the other day we’re going to step into the light. You know, time marches on. This is a big program. It is a serious situation and all of that, but we need to forward. Our players deserve it and our fans deserve it.”

The game was played and was won 33-23 by the defense over the offense and here were some things of note from a program trying to bounce back on the field after staggering to a 3-9 finish last season with only one Big Ten win:

BREAKOUT STANDOUT: Wide receiver Trishton Jackson opened the spring game with a catch on a deep pass from Brian Lewerke. The 6-foot-1, 183 sophomore finished with eight receptions for 168 yards along with a long punt return. Jackson had just five receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown last season in nine games.

“He can really run,” Dantonio said. “He’s got size. He’s got great hands. He’s got to get tougher. We can print that. That’s what I’m always telling him, `He’s got to get tougher,’ but he has a very unique skill set.”

BY THE NUMBERS: Lewerke led the first-string offense and was 25 of 44 for 305 yards with a short TD pass to fullback Collin Lucas.

Running back Made London, takin advantage of the opportunity to carry the ball a lot with Scott out, had 15 rushing attempts for 127 yards and a score.

On defense, freshman cornerback Josiah Scott had eight tackles and an interception and defensive end Kenny Willekes had eight tackles, including 1 1/2 for losses.