It’s time for this week’s version of the The Good, The Bad and The Random for the Michigan State Spartans.
Tuck Comin’? How about Tuck Already Here? This man, Mel Tucker, comes into East Lansing and inherits a roster that was squarely in the bottom of the Big Ten. He gets his transfers, shakes up the depth chart and puts a team on the field that gets a very, very impressive win against Miami (FL).
And don’t let anyone tell you that this win wasn’t that good. On the road in scorching heat that was bearing down on Michigan State’s sideline all game. Against a team that returned 19 starters from last season. With a 24-year-old starting quarterback. And ranked No. 24 in the country.
This wasn’t some win where MSU hung around and snuck it out at the end either — 38-17 is a dominant win. That’s a statement win for the program, and reassurance that Tucker has this thing going in the right direction possibly ahead of schedule.
And shoutout to offensive coordinator Jay Johnson really quick. I was, unfairly, harsh on him last year. I have major egg on my face. Now that Johnson has a proper cast of players at his disposal, he’s showing what he can dial up. The second half play-calling was superb, timing the screens wonderfully against Miami’s blitzes and cuing up play-action at just the right time.
Let’s talk about Payton Thorne and his toughness for a minute here. In the first half he wasn’t just facing pressure — he was taking some brutal shots. And for the first time all season, he looked a little shook as he nearly threw an interception and then sailed a pass to an open Jalen Nailor on a key third down.
The way he responded in the second half showed how tough — mentally and physically — of a kid he is. He was relaxed and smart with the ball. He stayed in the pocked to deliver passes with pressure coming right at him, which is wildly impressive considering the beating he took in the first half. And, for that, he was named Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week, after becoming the first Spartan quarterback to throw for four touchdowns in back-to-back games since Connor Cook did it in 2015.
Kenneth Walker III
I didn’t know it was possible, but Kenneth Walker has impressed us even more than he has after his first two great games. Just look at this clip...
Kenneth Walker had those Hurricanes DANCING yesterday pic.twitter.com/ymjT15Hysk— MSU NIL history-makers (@Sheehan_Sports) September 19, 2021
OH AND THERE’S MORE IMPRESSIVENESS TOO. Check out this little fun fact too...
Kenneth Walker III LEADS CFB with 372 yards after contact.— Happy Spartan Fan (@SpartyOn70) September 20, 2021
Kenneth Walker leads the nation in rushing yards with 493 yards (insanity when you consider he had just seven touches against Youngstown State). If we measured this only after yards per contact, he would rank eighth in nation(!) with those 372 yards. THAT IS BANANAS.
Connor Heyward, once again, deserves this flower. His position change to H-back has been a game-changer for the Spartans, as his sure hands and blocking ability have been a bonafide X-factor for the Green and White. I mean, come on, BLOCKING TWO PLAYERS IN THE SAME PLAY?
And what else could possibly be said about the receiver trio of Jayden Reed, Jalen Nailor and Tre Mosley? It was going to be fascinating to see how well the speed of Reed and Nailor was going to stack up against an athletic secondary in Miami and, WELP, LOOKS LIKE THEY PASSED THE TEST PRETTY WELL! Two receiving touchdowns from Nailor and one rushing touchdown from Reed. Those two are special.
Overall, a really good showing from the secondary. Yes, Charleston Rambo racked up 156 yards and two touchdowns and much of that was against Ronald Williams. However, his redemption moment with the game-icing interception was enough to call it a good game and also earn Player of the Game honors from MSU.
Xavier Henderson, once again, had an incredible game. And let’s give a quick shoutout to the young guns in Chuck Brantley and Darius Snow — those guys played like heat-seeking missiles the entire game. Just a violent game of football from those guys whenever someone caught the ball in the flat.
The front six had as solid of a game as you could’ve asked for. Miami was completely handcuffed in the run game, getting just 52 yards on 24 attempts. And Drew Beesley racking up two sacks — for as great as he is — is not something I expected. D’Eriq King is a tough guy to catch and bring down, but the front six got it done.
Let’s talk weather for a hot second — literally a hot second. MSU’s bench was squarely in the beating sun while Miami’s was covered by the shade of the stadium roof all game. During every break, student assistants held up giant pads to shade all the players on the bench — that can not go unnoticed. During the fourth quarter, a huge patch of clouds came overhead to make it ~15 degrees cooler. And shoutout to Head Performance Dietitian Amber Rinestine for getting the boys prepared for sweltering conditions.
Michigan State players didn’t dehydrate or look like they were loosing steam despite the conditions playing in Miami. A lot of credit needs to be given to @RinestineAmber for her nutrition program and the lengths it can go in these situations.— Doug (@Dhagg42) September 18, 2021
I’m not going to put anything in “The Bad” portion in here regarding MSU. I cannot muster up anything that could be deemed “Bad” after watching the Spartans win by 21 points on the road in a game played on the surface of the sun.
I will, however, put “Miami’s Hands” in this section. MSU caught some nice breaks, like the dropped interception in the first half and a few dropped passes from receivers (including one in the end zone).
ALL RIGHT, I just have to share this quick fun fact that happened. I was fortunate to fly down to the game and our flight number on the way to Florida was 1738. The score of the game? 17-38, Michigan State.
HOW FUN IS THAT? I will be sharing that fun fact to un-asking ears for the next decade.
You know what’s even more fun than that? STRIPING THE STADIUM.
STRIPE. THE. WOODSHED.— MSU NIL history-makers (@Sheehan_Sports) September 20, 2021
YOU WILL SEE THIS GRAPHIC ~500 TIMES BEFORE KICKOFF, SO EXCUSES ARE OUT THE DOOR.
DON'T DISAPPOINT MEL AND THE GANG. pic.twitter.com/i40GK4TOUI
Also, early betting lines are out and Michigan State is favored by 3.5 points against Nebraska. That might seem like a tight spread considering how Nebraska has been this season — especially after kicking it off with a brutal loss to Illinois — but they Cornhuskers have been OK since Week Zero. The Huskers defense held its own against Oklahoma last week, and a desperate team is always one to watch out for. Plus, Nebraska always seems to play Michigan State tough.
All right, that’s enough for today. LET’S CELEBRATE THAT WIN, GO GREEEEEEEEEEN!