The Michigan State Spartans’ 2021 home opener against the Youngstown State Penguins went just about as well as could be expected. The afternoon provided fans with a little bit of everything. The revamped pregame routine featured big American flags, both “Thunderstruck” and “Swag Surfin,’” and Sparty.
Once the game started, for the second-straight weekend, the Spartans drew first blood on the first snap of the game. In this case, MSU ran a flea-flicker pass from Payton Thorne to Jayden Reed. Reed caught the ball in stride near midfield and scampered to the end zone, untouched.
No team is more explosive on the game's first play than 2021 @MSU_Football. @JaydenReed5 hauls in the long TD pass to make it two straight weeks. pic.twitter.com/7pWeE1onRl— Michigan St. on BTN (@MichiganStOnBTN) September 11, 2021
The first play was only the beginning of the Spartan offensive explosion. MSU scored on the third possession of the game, thanks in part to a 24-yard run from defending Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, Kenneth Walker III. It was Thorne who took it into the end zone from 10 yards out, however, making the score 14-0, following a Matt Coghlin extra point.
@Xhenn5 @MSU_Football is making all the plays today. pic.twitter.com/StPOmLmQxL— Michigan St. on BTN (@MichiganStOnBTN) September 11, 2021
Following an incredible interception by senior captain Xavier Henderson near the goal line, Thorne hit Jayden Reed once again for a 85-yard touchdown strike to extend the lead to 21-0.
.@MSU_Football WR @JaydenReed5's first half (so far):— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) September 11, 2021
2 rec., 160 yards & 2 TD pic.twitter.com/nKoVIL34gM
The Spartans would later add a touchdown on a well-designed screen pass to Elijah Collins and yet another in the closing seconds of the first half on a run by Walker to make the score 35-7 at the break.
By halftime, the Spartan offense had accumulated 408 yards of total offense, which was almost 300 yards more than the Penguins of Youngstown State.
The second half saw significantly less scoring. The Penguins scored on their opening drive to cut the lead to 14-35. Matt Coughlin missed a 50-yard field goal on the Spartans’ next possession, but the MSU defense forced a three-and-out, and then the MSU offense scored again, this time on a 16-yard pass from Thorne to Jalen Nailor to bring the score to 42-14.
After that, Coach Mel Tucker largely emptied the bench, and the home crowd had a chance to see a few names that previously had only been seen in the spring game or the “Meet the Spartans” event.
Graduate transfer quarterback Anthony Russo took his first snaps as a Spartan and put up 43 yards while completing five of seven passes. Redshirt freshman tailback Donovan Eaglin had six carries for 32 yards, including a 16-yard run. Several young receivers also got into the box score as Montorie Foster, Terry Lockett, Maliq Carr, Ian Stewart, and Keon Coleman all recorded receptions.
In total, the Spartans had 272 yards rushing and 323 yards passing. Thorne was efficient, going 15-for-21 for 280 yards and four touchdowns (plus a rushing touchdown). Jordon Simmons rushed 16 times for 121 yards (7.6 yards per carry) and Walker had just seven carries for 57 yards and a touchdown (8.1 yards per carry). Reed led the Spartans with four catches for 181 yards and two scores.
The Spartan defense only allowed 304 total yards, including only 4.3 yards per attempt through the air and 3.7 yards per carry on the ground for the Penguins. Spartans fans enjoyed an easy victory in their first time in Spartan Stadium since November of 2019.
With the win, Michigan State is now 2-0 and feeling good headed into next week’s tough road game at Miami (FL). Stay tuned to The Only Colors for continuing coverage of this week’s big win.