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Michigan State Football: 3 takeaways from win over Richmond

Hard to take anything away from a game against an FCS foe.



Michigan State football

On Saturday, Michigan State football played host to Richmond, where the Spartans dominated. What can be learned from the MSU victory?

Following the Michigan State football season-opening win against Central Michigan, the Spartans played host to the Richmond Spiders this week.

In a game when the spread was not released until the day of, the Spartans again covered. The final score of 45-14 is somehow misleading, as Richmond only threatened on offense once. Their 14 points all came off Spartan mistakes.

While it was an FCS opponent, there was quite a bit to be learned from today’s game. So, what are the three takeaways from today?

1. The same issues plagued the Spartans, at the start

At the beginning of the game, it appeared like deja vu of last week. Noah Kim got off to a slow start, but that passed and he was in rhythm by the second quarter. Kim finished 18-for-22 for 292 yards. According to a stat shown in the broadcast, that was the third-highest completion percentage in a game by a Spartan, minimum 20 attempts. Kim was behind two current NFL quarterbacks, Brian Hoyer and Kirk Cousins.

Kim is looking to improve on his numbers from last week, where PFF was quite favorable of the first time starter.

The real issues lie in the offensive line and fundamentals. The offensive line could not muster a push against the Spiders front seven. Nick Samac was back this week, receiving the start and most of the snaps. That did not help much.

JD Duplain was beat on a third down where Richmond sent the house, giving Kim no time to throw before the blitzers even came close to him. Spencer Brown was blown off the ball and blown back multiple times. To make things worse, Brown was also whistled for two holding penalties. One of those was extremely costly, coming on what would have been a Maliq Carr touchdown. On one of the few plays where the Spartans got a push, a Montorie Foster pop pass, Geno VanDeMark went down with injury. 

The rest of the third quarter, the Spartan line was much stronger. Some of the better pushes came with a mix of the experienced Duplain and Samac, along with players like Ethan Boyd, Kristian Phillips, and Dallas Fincher. Phillips has been impressing me in his limited drives. “Big Dooley” only had two offers out of high school, but the mountain of a man will be competing to start next season.

In the fourth quarter, it was very similar to the first half. Granted, this occurred when nearly the whole offensive line was redshirt freshmen. Additionally, a pair of Jordon Simmons and Davion Primm fumbles led to the only points by the Spiders today.

As stated above, Brown’s holding penalties hurt the Spartans on offense. Near the end of the half, the Spartan defense again put their opponent into scoring position. Brandon Wright had a sack nullified by a Chuck Brantley defensive hold. Thankfully, the Spartans were bailed out by a kick that went off the upright. In the second half, the penalty front was a lot better.

Fundamentally, the Spartans made multiple unforced errors. Noah Kim had a throw nearly intercepted on the second drive. Kim also had a telegraphed pass nearly picked, until Montorie Foster snatched the bouncing ball out of the air for a miraculous first down. Multiple players missed open field tackles, and Kyle Wickersham had multiple runs that were snuffed at the line go for 10 or more yards. Angelo Grose dropped an interception that was directly to him. A fake punt went for nearly 20 yards to help set up the Richmond missed field goal. 

Overall, the team has not magically solved their problems week by week. The second half was a few steps forward, much like last week. These slow starts are exactly what got the Spartans into trouble against Washington last year, which is my main concern.

2. This pass rush is looking much improved

From the first play of this game, the pass rush had something to show. Khris Bogle started the party, recording a pressure on the first play of the game. Jacoby Windmon, Aaron Brule, Jordan Hall, and Derrick Harmon all got in on the fun, recording sacks or tackles for loss on completed passes. Angelo Grose came on a nickel blitz and adjusted on the pickup to record an assisted sack. By halftime, the Spartans racked up five sacks.

Brandon Wright was a pleasant surprise today. After an untimely facemask assisted Central Michigan’s only touchdown last week, Wright shined. Brandon Wright and Simeon Barrow Jr. combined for a sack on the first third down of the game. The converted running back should have aided in three sacks by halftime, if it was not for a Brantley hold in the secondary. He finished with two assisted sacks today. Like I mentioned in my 2024 NFL Draft preview piece from the spring, I think Wright has the athleticism to play on Sundays. 

In the second half, Tumise Adeleye recorded his first sack as a Spartan. Wickersham was under duress, relying on the check down for his completed passes.  Jalen Thompson had a good final drive, recording multiple tackles as the game wrapped up. Zion Young was again fundamentally sound, playing a great game and finishing with 1.5 sacks. Young has taken the leap. He is heads and shoulders above the closest competition, and I believe that he will be following Jacoby Windmon to the NFL in a few years. 

Speaking of Jordan Hall, today was the coming out game for the freshman. He diagnosed a pass and was breaking on the receiver as the ball got there, recording his first tackle for loss. Then, in the third quarter, Hall recorded three straight tackles, including a tackle for loss on third down, to send the Spiders off the field. Maybe this is an overreaction, but I think Jordan Hall will be pushing Cal Haladay for quality reps throughout the season. 

Unfortunately, Bai Jobe and Andrew Depaepe did not see the field this week. Alex VanSumeren was also out today, and he is still listed as out on the injury report. Jacoby Windmon was also out after halftime, with a pectoral injury being reported. 

The defense held Richmond to under 200 yards, recording the least amount of yards by a Mel Tucker coached Spartan team. 

3. The Michigan State football depth is a mixed bag

In any game against an FCS opponent, it is an excellent chance to see the depth of Michigan State football. Today was no exception. With a 30+ point lead for most of the second half, a lot of the new faces for Michigan State saw the field. As I mentioned above, the defense shut down Richmond at all points. The 14 points from Richmond all came via turnovers and a short field.

My first impression on depth is how stocked the defense and wide receiver room is. Noah Kim had plenty of targets, whether it was receiver or tight end. 

For tight ends, Tyneil Hopper recorded his first career touchdown as a Spartan. Jaylan Franklin had a pair of catches. Maliq Carr had a highlight-reel one-handed catch and the aforementioned touchdown called back. Additionally, Jack Nickel saw the field for the first time on offense. 

Now, for the receivers, this Spartan room is loaded. While it is not the Ohio State room of five first-round picks, this room has many threats. After Tyrell Henry’s explosive season debut last week, he was quiet today. Instead, the rest of the room shined. Christian Fitzpatrick was consistent with great hands, including laying out for a completion of 11 yards on Katin Houser’s only attempt today. Tre Mosley bounced back from multiple drops last week. Montorie Foster made good usage of his limited touches. Antonio Gates Jr. recorded his first career catch, a 40+ yard dime from Noah Kim. Jaron Glover made his case to be WR3. After last week, I was convinced Tyrell Henry was the new answer for our third receiver behind Mosley and Foster. This week, I believe Glover is.

While the receiver room’s depth shined, the running back room was horrendous outside of Nathan Carter. Carter was the best player on field today. His 111 yards and three touchdowns were only stopped by Mel Tucker pulling the plug before Carter ran himself into an injury.

Speaking of injuries, Jaren Mangham had to be helped off the field by trainers during warmups, hampering the room to start the day. Then, Jalen Berger went down with an injury in the third Spartan drive and was later seen in a walking boot. After solely relying on Nathan Carter for most of the game, he was pulled with the Spartans up by 38. Noah Kim, for the second straight week, had a designated quarterback run with the game over. Jordon Simmons, on his first carry of the game, fumbled. To make things worse, that was a fumble six. 

Next, we saw a name that many of us recall hearing about prior to the 2022 season: Davion Primm. Primm recorded some solid, if unspectacular, carries. Then, Primm coughed up the rock to give Richmond a short field. That led to the Spartans utilizing the former walk-on, former wide receiver, Joseph Martinez, for the last few series of the game with Katin Houser at quarterback. Martinez, thankfully, held onto the ball. Freshman Jaelon Barbarin did not see the field on offense today.

The final depth I have to cover is our offensive line. The line looked much improved in the second half, particularly the third quarter, as stated above. In the final few series, the line was again stood up, but this occurred with players in their first handful of games for Michigan State football. I will mark this depth area as a question mark.

Next week, the Spartans again play host. This time, they host Heisman hopeful Michael Penix Jr. and the Washington Huskies. If you plan on going in person, Michigan State will be celebrating their 2013 Big Ten Champion and Rose Bowl team.