Let’s jump right into this week’s edition of “The Good, The Bad, The Random.”
Payton Thorne had a really nice bounce-back game after a slowish start to his season. And he did so without his top target Jayden Reed and playing down two-plus possessions for most of the game.
Michigan State's Payton Thorne played well in the loss to Washington.— Ryan O'Bleness (@ryanobleness) September 18, 2022
Despite facing pressure for much of the night, he completed 71.4 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and one interception. He also completed his first 10 passes of the game, and 14 of his first 15. pic.twitter.com/8byif8vpAM
Was it a perfect game? With the interception that close to Washington’s end zone, no, but it was a game that had far more positives than negatives. That was a tough environment under tough circumstances the defense put him under, and he performed well enough to let us know that he’s still the solid quarterback we remember from last season.
Also, Keon Coleman is That Guy. His first game with over 100 receiving yards, two touchdowns and a presence that let MSU fans know that the sophomore is indeed who everyone thought he could be.
Reed being out is undoubtedly a bummer and hurts the offense, but as far as “next man up” goes, the wide receiver room is maybe the position group you feel best about on this team.
Mel Tucker said it best after the game with his quote on the team’s fight during the game, saying the following:
Tucker: "I saw a team that continued to play the next play throughout the whole game ... guys continued to play hard."— Matt Charboneau (@mattcharboneau) September 18, 2022
Not to get all “rah-rah!” about effort in a bad loss, but there is something to be said about how the players never folded. They stayed in the fight all four quarters and showed fire, despite being set up for failure right off the bat of the game by the coaching staff.
This didn’t feel like the third game of the 2022 season — this felt like the 14th game of the 2022 season that was marred in passing defense woes. Defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton is now on the hottest seat in East Lansing and doesn’t just need to make changes — he needs to make drastic changes.
Michael Penix Jr. is the seventh quarterback in the last two seasons to have either his highest or second-highest career passing yards game against Michigan State. He threw for nearly 400 yards, good for his career second-best.
Northwestern’s Hunter Johnson, Michigan’s Cade McNamara and Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell all had career-high days against MSU last season. Miami’s D’Eriq King, Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe and Ohio State’s CJ Stroud all had their second-highest career passing yards day — and Stroud did it in a single half.
Maybe some of it is the players themselves. Surely some of it is the scheme. Whatever combination of the two that it is, it falls on the coaching staff. That’s on head coach Mel Tucker, Hazelton and secondary coach Harlon Barnett — the coaches that have watched their defense get diced up through the air constantly over the last two seasons.
And the game plan itself on defense was puzzling, too. Rarely ever blitzing and going with a four-man pass rush that never got home to Penix. A great way for Penix not to sit there and carve you up is to apply a little pressure, and MSU refused to do it despite never seeing anyone get to him. I, personally, would maybe try to send in a few blitzes once I realized the four-man rushes were not working, but who am I?
Oh and back-breaking third-down conversions by Michigan State’s opponents are still a thing. On three Washington touchdown drives, the Huskies converted a third-and-6, a fourth-and-6 and a third-and-5.
On the first Washington drive that ended on the 1-yard-line, Michigan State let up a fourth-and-5 and a third-and-12 instead of getting off the field and giving the offense better field position than the goal line. On the other Washington drive that ended at the 1-yard-line, a third-and-8 was converted.
Not only did MSU’s defense kick off the game with the Spartans down two possessions very quickly, but the unit couldn’t get a grip of momentum either.
The Michigan State run game was incredibly underwhelming, and against a team that has just an OK run defense — 1.4 yards per carry is not going to cut it in any game moving forward, just like how it didn’t cut it on Saturday.
Mel, with all due respect, I think she would’ve been more offended watching the game Saturday night than seeing this exchange at Monday’s press conference.
Tucker: "I hope my mom's not watching this press conference today." https://t.co/wPf3A8xtm5— Chris Solari (@chrissolari) September 19, 2022
Hey, we can also take solace that we won’t see a worse call against Michigan State this season than this!
It’s going to be a LONG game pic.twitter.com/jItjgnTCaE— Barstool Spartans (@BarstoolMSU) September 18, 2022
I don’t think this had a huge impact on the game because, let’s face it, the defense was going to give up 15-plus yards on the next play or two anyway.
It would be stupid to do bowl projections after just three games...but I like stupid things, so here we go!
CBS Sports: ReliaQuest Bowl vs. Kentucky
Sports Illustrated: Citrus Bowl vs. Kentucky
Action Network: Duke’s Mayo Bowl vs. North Carolina State
247Sports: ReliaQuest Bowl vs. Kentucky
We’ve got a kickoff time for the Maryland game, and MSU will be playing back-to-back games in the 3:30 p.m. time slot.
Let’s all move on with our lives now. Minnesota on Saturday. Go Green.