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Michigan State Football: Takeaways from the win over Akron

The Spartans recorded the program’s first home shutout since 2016 on Saturday, winning 52-0.

Syndication: Lansing State Journal Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Michigan State football team took a step forward in Week Two, beating the Akron Zips by a final score of 52-0 in the first shutout of the Mel Tucker era, and the Spartans’ first shutout at home since playing Rutgers in 2016. It was a dominant win, but certainly wasn’t perfect. With a road trip to Seattle on the way to play Washington in Week Three, it’s just the kind of win that the Spartans needed to build the team’s confidence.

Let’s dive into this week’s takeaways.

The defense keeps improving

Last week, I noted that despite how ugly the game felt, the defense still had a good performance and was already showing improvement from last year. That’s true again this week. While Akron was able to move the ball early on Michigan State, it never amounted to anything for the Zips. The defense now leads the FBS in sacks with 12 already so far in 2022, and also is tied with Arkansas for most fumbles forced with seven. And, obviously, the Spartans pitched a shutout this week as well.

The defense is also showing some improvement in pass coverage. Kendell Brooks had a very nice pass break up in his first start (in addition to another forced fumble), and Charles Brantley had quite a few (three) as well. The defensive line continued to perform well this week, recording five sacks. Linebacker/defensive end Jacoby Windmon has earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for the second consecutive week. With a road trip to Washington next, this will be the first real test for the Spartan defense.

Payton Thorne is still the guy, but he needs to play better

I noted that Thorne looked a bit off last week, and that continued this past weekend in the win over Akron. He looked better as the game went on, but he was still missing on some routine throws and the deep ball that made the pass so effective for the Spartans last year. He also threw two interceptions. I’m not sure what the issue has been, and Thorne is trying to figure that out himself, but if Michigan State wants to be competitive in big games this season, Thorne has to figure it out and get back to his old self. His level of play has to be better against Washington in order for MSU to get a tough win on the road.

The run game has the potential to be deadly

I said last week that Jalen Berger looked outstanding in his Michigan State debut. This week that continued, but with Jarek Broussard also having an outstanding game. I know it’s only Akron, but the offensive line was getting some good push up front, which opened up opportunities for both running backs to make some big plays on Saturday.

The running game has been a bit of an Achilles’ heel for Spartan offenses in the recent past (excluding 2021), so continuing to find this same success on the ground consistently this year will be huge for MSU. Washington has a bit better of a defense, so this upcoming matchup will be a good way to measure where the run game is truly at.

Final Thoughts

Michigan State has some work to do before it heads to Washington, but the Spartans remain in a good spot. There’s lots of potential across the board, but the key is cleaning things up (namely, the passing game) and finding consistent success in the coming weeks. It starts with the game against Washington this Saturday.