After a patchy performance against Nebraska the week before, the Michigan State Spartans shone in attack on Saturday night. The Spartans have improved to 5-0 this season after a 48-31 victory over the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. Mel Tucker’s side remain undefeated, but will face more difficult challenges ahead as they head into the Big Ten game.
Living up to their reputation as a potential Cinderella, the Hilltoppers edged the Spartans in offense by 556 yards to 519 yards, while moving the ball with increased efficiency in the second half. Despite their offensive momentum, the Hilltoppers failed to come close to striking distance.
While the Western Kentucky pass attack was an important point, it didn’t scare the MSU loyalists, but the Spartans will spend the coming week figuring out a way to limit teams in the airs offensively and fill in the gaps in the defense before the Big Ten game. MSU doesn’t want to give up so many explosive games to advancing opponents.
Jayden Reed picked up where he left off last week, returning an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown on his first touch of the game, then scoring on a 46-yard Payton Thorne touchdown shortly after. after. The Spartans would score three touchdowns in the first quarter to open a gap against the pesky Hilltoppers. Western Kentucky performed well in the first three games of the season’s schedule, despite two narrow losses to Army and Indiana.
Western Kentucky closed the gap on a Brayden Naverson field goal early in the second quarter to make the game 21-13, but a Spartans touchdown on the next drive blew up the game, and Michigan State did not watch. backward.
Michigan State would continue to dominate nearly every offensive possession throughout the first half, eventually overtaking the Hilltoppers 42-16 before halftime. Kenneth Walker III finished the half with three touchdowns and showed flashes of elite playing ability that were absent last weekend against the Cornhuskers.
The Spartans scored just six points in the second half on two short field goals from Matt Coghlin, while MSU’s defense was often put to the test as the Hilltoppers gained plenty of distance and scored 15 points. more in the second half. WKU quarterback Bailey Zappe would finish with 488 passing yards on offense and three touchdowns, but the Hilltoppers’ rushed offense would only gain 68 total yards.
After facing adversity for the first time this season this past weekend, Thorne is back on track with a performance of 327 yards on just 20 completed passes and two total touchdowns (one on reception and one on the ground) . As usual, Jalen “Speedy” Nailor (eight receptions for 128 yards) and Reed (seven receptions for 127 yards) carried the receiving load for the Spartans and exhibited weak defense against Hilltopper’s passes. Walker would also rule the rushed offense, finishing with 126 yards and three touchdowns.
While Michigan State fans are thrilled to see the Spartans where they are now, the competition will continue to improve as the schedule fully switches to Big Ten Conference play, and the passing defense will need to. rally to it. MSU will travel to Rutgers next weekend and look to remain a candidate at the conference,