Michigan State has gotten off to a nice start in 2022, out-scoring opponents 87-13 through two weeks, but Payton Thorne has struggled.
Taking the first flea-flicker pitch of the season, Payton Thorne scanned down the field for his receiver, saw the rush in his face, and launched the ball while taking a massive hit.
As Thorne laid on the field after the big hit which led to another interception, the worst-case scenario crept into fans’ heads. Was the veteran quarterback injured and would he miss time with the schedule just about to hit its first tough stretch? He came off the field and was replaced by Noah Kim for a few plays and his backup threw a nice touchdown pass and completed both of his attempts for 22 yards.
Bad thoughts crept in once again as Kim hit Tre Mosley in the end zone on a strike: Is there now a quarterback controversy?
The short answer is obviously no, but after a second straight shaky performance to start the season, it’s time to start talking about expecting more from Thorne. No, he’s not in danger of losing his job, but he can’t be missing receivers at such a high clip. He’s just too good and proven for that.
Should we panic about his 58 percent completion rate against two so-so MAC opponents? It’s concerning, for sure, but I’m not ready to hit that panic button. Thorne was trying to do too much against Western Michigan in the opener and was too hyped up which explains his constant overthrows and 50 percent completion rate and then he carried that over into the Akron matchup.
Too much of the happy feet in the pocket, back-foot throws, forcing too much into tight windows, and rushing before defenders are even closing in on him. These are all correctable mistakes that he’s making and when he settles down in the pocket, he’s going to flourish. He’s made some really good throws this year but his bad ones are obviously much more memorable because they’ve been, well, really bad.
All of the mistakes Thorne has been making are correctable. Mel Tucker knows this. Jay Johnson knows this. Thorne knows this. Fans may not know this because of the excessive overreactions after two games, but when he settles down in the pocket, doesn’t throw off his back-foot, and trusts his line and receivers more, the overthrows will disappear.
Also, he needs to be running more when given the opportunity. Defenses will struggle to defend him if he showcases more of that dual-threat ability — he must do this against Washington. Extend plays with his legs, scramble out of a crowded pocket, and trust receivers to get open down the field. That, too, will fix Thorne’s early-season mechanics.
Should we be worried about Thorne after his slow start? No, because the issues are correctable and he’s proven that he can be a much better passer.
Heck, Connor Cook was 12-for-27 for 74 yards and no touchdowns in his first two games of 2013 against WMU and South Florida, and look how quickly he fixed his issues.
If he can’t correct them by Big Ten play then we can be slightly worried.