Michigan State football didn’t play well against Western Michigan in a win, but that’s why you need to buy stock now.
Four yards. That’s all Michigan State football could muster on Friday night in its first two drives of the game and you could almost hear the collective sigh from the fanbase.
A year after watching Michigan State boast its best offense in what seemed like a decade, Jay Johnson’s offense was sputtering early on against an inferior foe. Sure, Western Michigan had one of the best defenses in the MAC last year, but this is Michigan State football. There’s no way the nation’s No. 15 team should have a tough time moving the ball on Western Michigan.
Michigan State finally got on the scoreboard seven minutes later with a 44-yard Germie Bernard catch-and-run for a touchdown. He made a play on a slightly high pass and took it to the house.
The rout seemed to be on.
Daniel Barker reeled in a one-handed touchdown catch on the first play of the second quarter from Payton Thorne to make it 14-3 and then Keon Coleman crossed the goal-line just 2:30 later on a 41-yard reception.
Michigan State went into halftime with a 21-3 lead which should have been at least 24-3 if not for a horrible Thorne pick in the red zone. Western Michigan couldn’t move the ball. The game was over.
Or so we thought.
The third quarter was all Western Michigan, pulling within a score, 21-13, but Michigan State eventually pulled away and actually covered the 20.5-point spread, 35-13.
Was it pretty? Absolutely not. Did the offense look good? Not particularly, but it still averaged 7.7 yards per play. Did the defense look improved? Honestly, I’m not even sure.
Everyone seems to be down on Michigan State football. If you looked at Twitter after the game — or during it — you would have thought Western Michigan pulled off the monumental upset. Michigan fans (Braylon Edwards) were beating their chests and guaranteeing a rivalry win in two months and MSU fans were ready to call it quits on the season.
You would have thought Western just shocked the college football world a-la Appalachian State over Michigan in 2007 or Central Michigan over MSU in 2009. Not even close to the case, actually.
Michigan State not only won the game but also covered. Thorne threw four touchdown passes (a career-high) and averaged an impressive 9.7 yards per attempt while Western’s quarterback had fewer than 200 yards and averaged 5.4 per attempt. Jalen Berger had 120 rushing yards on 16 attempts and WMU had 141 total rushing yards on 37 touches. Western averaged 4.6 yards per play and MSU averaged 7.7. The Spartans forced two turnovers and had seven sacks and Western had one sack and two (that fumble call was awful) turnovers.
Mel Tucker’s team dominated darn near every category and left about 17 points on the board and still won by 22 points. Yet the sky is falling.
With Michigan State’s stock somehow in the gutter after covering against a projected top-half MAC team in the season opener, buy as many shares as you can afford right now.
Also, when was the last time you can remember Michigan State playing really well in a non-conference season opener? Let’s go down the line:
- 2019: Tulsa — didn’t play well and won by 21
- 2018: Utah State — didn’t play well and won by 7
- 2017: Bowling Green — played OK, won by 25
- 2016: Furman — didn’t play well and won by 15
- 2015: Western Michigan — played OK, won by 13
- 2014: Jacksonville State — played really well, won by 38
So it’s been nearly a decade since Michigan State played well in a non-conference season-opener. Friday’s win over Western was the second-biggest non-conference season-opening win since 2014.
If you think about it, Thorne played one of his worst games, the defense lost two key starters, Jayden Reed got banged up, the kicking game was shaky, and the secondary struggled and Michigan State still won by three scores. Buy stock now.
Here’s what we should feel good about:
- Thorne won’t be this bad moving forward
- The run game averaged 6.2 yards per carry
- Tight end and receiver rooms are loaded
- Offensive line is going to keep gelling
- Defense held up without two stars and team leaders
- Jacoby Windmon is a superstar
- The Brandon Jordan effect is real
- Michigan State has dudes at every position
Like I said, buy stock now.