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The Good, The Bad, The Random in Michigan State’s opening win over Western Michigan

There’s plenty to love about the Spartans’ first win of the season.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

HAPPY VICTORY SUNDAY (on a long weekend nonetheless)!

There was plenty of good about Michigan State’s opening night win over Western Michigan on Friday, so let’s stop wasting time and jump right into the recap of the splendid evening.


This is a win we can all feel pretty good about. I think the majority of MSU fans are pleased with Friday night, but there is a contingent out there that feels a tad underwhelmed. Believe me, I can be as harsh of a critic on this team as anyone, but not after that game. The Spartans covered the spread, kept the Broncos to 13 points while replacing two key players (more on that later, obviously) and flexed what can make this offense special for the next 11-plus games.

Not every game is going to be a 50-point blowout (just wait until this Saturday if that’s what you need in your life). Western Michigan has one of the best defenses in the MAC and is coming off a bowl season — the Broncos are a solid Group of Five team. Getting a comfortable week one win under the belt is always welcomed around here.

It’s just one game, but it’s already clear Mel Tucker and company have aced another portal season. Just look at what the new kids on the block did on Friday:

Washington State transfer Brian Greene also logged 25 snaps on Friday night as well, making him a contributor right off the jump as well. Tucker isn’t just pulling in transfers for the heck of it — he’s reeling in guys he knows that can make an impact from the first snap of the season. Major kudos to general manager/executive director of player personnel and recruiting Saeed Khalif as well.

And speaking of instant impact, no one had a louder one than UNLV transfer Jacoby Windmon. It was going to be interesting to see where MSU was going to put this freak of an athlete — linebacker or right on the edge of the defensive line. The Spartans went with the edge, and that paid off with four sacks and just making life miserable for first-time starting quarterback Jack Salopek.

Yes, it was against Western and, yes, the Broncos are replacing both of their starting tackles from last year, but these moves and quickness will play all season long:

And let’s not discount what the other guys on the line did either. Jacob Slade, Brandon Wright, Simeon Barrow, Jeff Pietrowski and Khris Bogle all had at least a half tackle for loss. It’s just one game, but our assumption that the defensive line would be a strength for this team is already looking like a correct one.

And how about Ben VanSumeren — I’m sorry — STARTING LINEBACKER Ben VanSumeren. He might have been the best player outside of Windmon on Friday, and it’s easy to see why. It felt like VanSumeren was on the ball for at least 90 percent of the plays, also racking up 11 tackles and a tackle for loss.

Seeing VanSumeren get the start was certainly a surprise, but after about two or three series you could see why it’s the furthest thing from a surprise. He read well, shed blocks well, was solid in pass coverage and just looked the part of a starting Big Ten linebacker.


Four touchdowns by four dynamic weapons, and none of them are named Jayden Reed. Germie Bernard, Keon Coleman, Daniel Barker and Tre Mosley all hung up six points on the board and that quartet of players — plus Reed, obviously — should have us all excited about the offense.

Bernard is the real deal, with the physicality and speed that makes you question if he really is a true freshman. Coleman, yeah, if he’s matched up one-on-one then it’s a green light special. Barker is already what we all thought he could be — a matchup nightmare in the red zone. And Mosley is simply Mr. Reliable, always there when you need to get out of a jam.

The running backs also flew under the radar as well and Jalen Berger and Jarek Broussard each posted solid games. Berger used great vision to rack up 120 yards on 16 carries, and Broussard’s shiftiness was good to add on 54 yards on 10 carries as well.

I do pity these guys, though, because being a running back the year after Kenneth Walker III is an impossible job as far as pleasing people goes. A combined 174 yards on 26 carries is objectively good, but coming off a season of watching the nation’s best running back has that stat line overlooked.

Long story short, it’s impossible to replace Walker. However, these two guys are doing a good job of filling as much of those empty shoes as possible.

Speaking of shoes, how about the balls getting rifled off the ones on Bryce Barringer’s feet. One punt for 70 yards, another for 67 yards and a great start to a potential Ray Guy Award-winning season.


The student section showed up in full force and the rest of the stadium was as packed as could be for an opening night game. The “Stripe The Stadium” game never fails to disappoint, and neither did the fans in attendance that are primed for another great season of MSU football.


The story of the game was unfortunately injuries. Darius Snow and Xavier Henderson would be massive losses should their injuries be as bad as they look — there’s no sugar coating it. You’re losing your best tackler in Snow and the leader of the defense in Henderson.

Kendell Brooks played solid filling in for Henderson, but he also left the game with an injury,. The linebacker room is stacked enough to feel decent about Snow’s replacements. However, even if it is a “next man up” mentality, none of those next men can provide what these two did.

The offense left a little to be desired in the third quarter. I don’t know, that’s the only other negative I can give you. I have no doubt Jay Johnson and company will have the ball rolling moving forward — the sample size is too full of success not to believe it.


Hey, let’s get the weekly award season started! Last year Walter Camp snubbed Kenneth Walker III after his dominant Week One against Northwestern, but this time they got it right on the defensive side of the ball. Windmon has earned Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.

It’s tough to put Payton Thorne in the “good” or “bad” category. On one hand, yes he did sail a few throws and looked to be a tad rusty for the first game of the season, against his dad of all teams. On the other hand, four touchdowns is four touchdowns and those passes were as solid as any he’s had.

We know Thorne is better than what he showed on Friday night, and a dose of Akron should be just what the doctor ordered to get his game right before taking off to Washington.

The College Football Playoff is expanding to 12 teams, with the top-four seeds getting a bye to the quarterfinals (which will be bowl games) and seeds No. 6-12 playing in the higher seed’s stadiums. HEY WAIT A MINUTE, if this happened last year MSU would have made it! Let’s see how that hypothetical bracket would’ve gone!

All right, never mind! Would’ve been cool to say “We made the playoff again!” but I don’t know if I could’ve stomached another 417-7 loss at Ohio State last season. More on playoff expansion here.

I hate to say it, but I got Cockslam’d. This image went viral on Twitter shortly after the game:

Which was probably because this image went viral first:

I let my guard down. I got excited that there was actually a John Cockslam on the team and it was some walk-on who I never noticed before (Jacob Merritt). But, alas, the image is just a photoshopped name over freshman Jacob Merritt’s roster bio on the website. I can’t believe it — the internet lied.

We also have a lot to teach our newest Big Ten siblings by the way:

I get it, it was around 100 degrees all day in Pasadena. But come on, Michigan State fans went to Tempe and had more than 27,000 fans in enemy territory for a game that kicked off in 104-degree temps. UCLA fans, that’s amateur hour.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND PLACE YOUR BETS FOR NEXT SATURDAY. Spartans open up as -34 favorites against an Akron team that needed overtime to beat St. Francis of the FCS. Yikes.

As always, enjoy the rest of the winning week. GO GREEN!