Spartans Return to New Year’s Six Bowl
Game 13: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl – No. 10 Michigan State (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten) vs. No. 12 Pittsburgh (11-2, 7-1 ACC)
Date: Thursday, Dec. 30
Kickoff: 7 p.m. EST
Location: Atlanta, Ga.
Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (73,000)
Live Stats: msuspartans.com | Live Stats
Game Day Information: MSU Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Information
Mobile: WatchESPN/ESPN app | Watch Live
Announcers: Mark Jones (play-by-play), Robert Griffin III (analyst), Quint Kessenich (sidelines)
Radio: Spartan Media Network | Affiliate Listings
Play-by-Play: George Blaha
Analyst: Jason Strayhorn
Sidelines: Will Tieman
Website/Mobile: msuspartans.com/MSU Spartans app/Tune In radio
Flagship Stations: Lansing: WMMQ (94.9 FM)/WJIM (1240 AM); Detroit: WJR (760 AM); Grand Rapids: WBFX (101.3 FM)
Affiliates: 30 affiliates listed at msuspartans.com
Satellite: Sirius (Ch. 84), XM (Ch. 84), SiriusXM app (Ch. 84)
Pre-game Show: Begins at 5:30 p.m.
All-Time Series: MSU leads, 6-0-1
MSU in Bowl Games: 30th bowl appearance (13-16 record)
MSU Head Coach: Mel Tucker
MSU Record: 12-7 (second year)
Overall Record: 17-14 (third year)
Record vs. Pitt: 0-0
Pitt Head Coach: Pat Narduzzi
Pitt Record: 53-36 (seventh year)
Overall Record: 53-36 (seventh year)
Record vs. MSU: 0-0
• Michigan State is making its third appearance in a New Year’s Six bowl game as the No. 10 Spartans will take on No. 12 Pittsburgh in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Thursday, Dec. 30 at 7 p.m. in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The game will be televised on ESPN with Mark Jones, Robert Griffin III and Quint Kessenich on the call.
• Michigan State finished the regular season with a 10-2 record, marking the ninth time in program history the Spartans have won double-digit games in a season (1965, 1999, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2021). MSU’s No. 10 finish in the final College Football Playoff Top 25 was the highest for the program since 2015 (No. 3) and third-best overall (No. 8 in 2014). The Spartans have finished in the final CFP Top 25 four times since the College Football Playoff began in 2014 (No. 8 in 2014, No. 3 in 2015, No. 16 in 2017, No. 10 in 2021). The Spartans are looking to win their 11th game for just the sixth time in school history.
• In just his second year in East Lansing, Spartan head coach Mel Tucker has led MSU to a 10-2 record and a berth in the New Year’s Six with a matchup against No. 12 Pitt in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Tucker is a finalist for National Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association, the Paul Bear Bryant Awards and the Football Writers Association of America. He was also named the Big Ten Coach of the Year by both the coaches and media. Going from two wins in 2020 to 10 wins in 2021, MSU has already completed the biggest turnaround in school history (previous: seven-game improvement from 2016 to 2017). Tucker also became the earliest Spartan coach to win 10 games in a season (previous: Mark Dantonio with 11 wins in his fourth season at MSU in 2010).
• The Spartans are making their 30th all-time bowl appearance (13-16 record), including their third in a New Year’s Six bowl game (Cotton Bowl Classic during 2014 season; CFP Semifinal at Cotton Bowl Classic during 2015 season). This marks MSU’s first-ever appearance in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Michigan State has won six of its last eight bowl games and is playing in a bowl game for the 13th time in the past 15 years.
• Pitt won the ACC Championship with a 45-21 victory over Wake Forest and enters the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl with an 11-2 record (7-1 ACC). This will be the eighth all-time meeting between the two schools and the first in a bowl game; MSU leads the series, 6-0-1. The Spartans won the last meeting in East Lansing in 2007, 17-13, when current Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi was in his first year as the defensive coordinator of the Spartans. Narduzzi spent eight seasons (2007-14) as the defensive coordinator for Michigan State under Mark Dantonio and was named the Broyles Award winner in 2013.
• Junior running back Kenneth Walker III, a unanimous first-team All-American who was named the Walter Camp National Player of the Year and winner of the Doak Walker Award, announced on Dec. 16 his decision to enter the 2022 NFL Draft and not play in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Walker finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in the FBS in rushing (1,636 yards; 136.3 ypg) and led the FBS in rushing yards after contact (1,168), 20-plus yard carries (21) and missed forced tackles (89). He became the first Spartan ever to win the Walter Camp Player of the Year and the Doak Walker Award.
• Redshirt junior Jayden Reed was named a first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) as an all-purpose player. Reed leads the team with 53 catches for 946 yards (17.9 avg.) and eight touchdowns. He was named one of five finalists for the Paul Hornung Award, which is awarded annually by the Louisville Sports Commission to the nation’s most versatile player. Reed, who was also named first-team All-Big Ten by The Associated Press as an all-purpose player, ranks among the Big Ten and FBS leaders in all-purpose yards (second in Big Ten and 17th in FBS, 130.8 ypg), yards per catch (second and 31st, 17.9 avg.), touchdown catches (fourth and 37th with eight) and receiving yards (fifth and 39th with 78.8 ypg). His 18.5 yards per play ranks sixth most in the FBS (946 receiving yards, 376 kick return, 213 punt return, 34 rushing for a total of 1,569 yards on 85 total plays). He also is tied for the FBS lead with two punt returns for touchdowns (62 yards vs. Nebraska, 88 yards vs. Western Kentucky).
• In his first season as the starter, redshirt sophomore quarterback Payton Thorne has completed 61 percent of his passes (206-of-339) for 2,886 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Thorne’s 24 TD passes are tied for second most in a Spartan season (school record: 25 by Kirk Cousins in 2011). He also ranks among MSU’s single-season leaders in passing yards per game (fifth with 240.5 ypg), passing efficiency (fifth with 150.3 rating), passing yards (seventh with 2,886) and total offense (eighth with 3,063 yards).
• Michigan State features five players on the roster from the state of Georgia: DT Simeon Barrow (Grovetown/Grovetown High School); TE Connor Heyward (Duluth/Peachtree Ridge High School); DE Drew Jordan (Suwanee/North Gwinnett); OG James Ohonba (Stockbridge/Woodland High School) and RB Jordon Simmons (Marietta/McEachern).
• Ten Spartans are in their last year of NCAA eligibility and will participate in their final collegiate game in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: C Matt Allen, OT AJ Arcuri, DE Drew Beesley, OT Luke Campbell, K Matt Coghlin and DE Jacub Panasiuk all returned for an extra season with MSU in 2021, while transfers Drew Jordan (DE), Spencer Rowland (DB), Anthony Russo (QB) and Cody Waddell (P) also played their final collegiate season wearing the Green and White. In addition, fifth-year senior tight end Connor Heyward will play in his final game as a Spartan; Heyward announced he will play in the 2022 Senior Bowl after the season.
► STAT LEADERS
Rushing – Jr. Kenneth Walker III (263 carries for 1,636 yards, 6.2 avg., 18 TDs)
Passing – R-So. Payton Thorne (206-of-339, .607, 2,886 yards, 24 TDs, 9 INTs)
Receiving – R-Jr. Jayden Reed (53 catches for 946 yards, 17.9 avg., 8 TDs)
Tackles – Sr. S Xavier Henderson (94 tackles, 59 solo, 35 assists, 10 TFLs, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 2 PBUs, 1 FF)
Rushing – So. Israel Abanikanda (118 carries for 635 yards, 5.4 avg., 7 TDs)
Passing – R-Sr. Kenny Pickett (334-of-497, .672, 4,319 yards, 42 TDs, 7 INTs)
Receiving – So. Jordan Addison (93 receptions for 1,479 yards, 15.9 avg., 17 TDs)
Tackles – Jr. LB SirVocea Dennis (81 tackles, 31 solo, 50 assists, 9 TFLs, 4 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FR)
► A QUICK GLANCE AT NO. 12 PITTSBURGH (11-2, 7-1 ACC)
• The Panthers tote an 11-2 overall record into the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl after winning the ACC Championship game with a 45-21 triumph over No. 16 Wake Forest for Pitt’s first ACC title since leaving the Big East in 2013.
• After opening the season 2-0 with wins over UMass (51-7 on Sept. 4) and at Tennessee (41-34 on Sept. 11), Pitt lost to Western Michigan (44-41 on Sept. 18), before reeling off four wins in a row over New Hampshire (77-7 on Sept. 25), at Georgia Tech (52-21 on Oct. 2), at Virginia Tech (28-7 on Oct. 16), and Clemson (27-17 on Oct. 23). The Panthers had their win streak halted with a home loss to Miami (38-34 on Oct. 30). Pitt got back in the win column with a win at Duke (54-29) on Nov. 6), the first of five straight victories to close out the season, including an OT win over North Carolina (30-23 on Nov. 11), Virginia (48-38 on Nov. 20) and at Syracuse (31-14 on Nov. 27) in the regular-season finale.
• In the ACC Championship win over Wake Forest, Heisman Trophy finalist senior quarterback Kenny Pickett accounted for three TDs, passing for two and rushing for another on a famous 58-yard scamper. Pickett was 20-for-33 for 253 yards with two TDs, while rushing six times for 20 total yards, getting sacked three times. Pickett, who also won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and was named to several first-team All-American lists, announced on Dec. 16 that he will not be playing in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl to begin preparations for the 2022 NFL Draft.
• Junior quarterback Nick Patti has played in eight games, passing for 140 yards on 12-of-14 with no interceptions and TDs, while rushing once for 9 yards. Sophomore quarterback Davis Beville is 3-of-4 passing for 58 yards in two games, also without an INT or TD.
• Overall, Pitt led the ACC and ranks third in the FBS in scoring offense (43.0 ppg), while ranking second in the ACC and fifth in the FBS in total offense (502.9 ypg), including ranking second in the ACC and sixth in the FBS in passing offense (350.2 ypg), and ranking 11th in the conference and 72nd in the country in rushing offense (152.7 ypg).
• The Panther defense is fifth in the ACC and 43rd in the FBS in scoring defense (23.1 ppg), ranking fifth in the league and 41st in the nation in total defense (349.2 ypg). Pitt leads the ACC and ranks sixth in the FBS in rushing defense, yielding just 91.8 ypg, while ranking 12th in the ACC and 106th in FBS in passing yards allowed (257.4 ypg).
• Sophomore wide receiver Jordan Addison was named a first-team All-American and winner of the 2021 Bilketnikoff Award. He leads the nation with 17 receiving TDs, also leading the ACC and ranking third in FBS in total receiving yards (1,479), first in the ACC and sixth in the FBS in receiving yards per game (113.8) and second in the conference and 13th in the country in receptions per game (7.2), also ranking third in the league and 18th in the nation in all-purpose yards per game (130.15 ypg), with 11 punt returns for 195 yards (16.8 ypc) and six rushing attempts for 28 yards and one TD.
• Including Addison, a total of 11 Panthers have caught a TD pass, and Addison is followed by Jared Wayne and Lucas Krull, as Krull has six TD catches, part of 37 receptions for 443 yards (12.0 ypc/34.1 ypg), while Wayne has five TDs part of 46 catches for 654 yards (14.2 ypc/54.5 ypg).
• Sophomore running back Israel Abanikanda Abanikanda has 118 carries for a team-leading 635 yards (5.4 ypc/52.9 ypg) with seven TDs. Vincent Davis has a team-high 130 carries for 550 yards (4.2 ypc/42.3 ypg) with four TDs.
• Junior linebacker SirVocea Dennis spearheads the Panther defense with 81 total tackles (31 solo, 50 assists), with 9.0 tackles for loss (47 yards) and 4.0 sacks (38 yards), adding one interception, one fumble recovery, one blocked kick and four QB hurries.
• Junior free safety Erick Hallett II Hallett leads the Pitt defense with 11 passes defended on eight pass break-ups and three INTs (19 yards), with two coming in the ACC Championship game to earn MVP honors.
• Junior defensive end Habakkuk Baldonado has a team-leading 11.5 tackles for loss (54 yards) and 9.0 sacks (46 yards), also topping the team with nine QB hurries. Baldonado is fourth in the ACC and 33rd in the FBS in sacks/game (0.69).
• Sophomore placekicker Sam Scarton is 17-of-21 on field goals, with a long of 47-yards, and has had one blocked, while making 66-of-69 PATs.
• Senior punter Kirk Christodoulou has a 41.1 ypp average on 53 punts with a long of 58-yards, one of seven punts of 50+ yards, with 20 inside the 20.
► MSU/PITT SERIES NOTES
• This will be the eighth all-time meeting between Michigan State and Pittsburgh and the first in a bowl game; MSU leads the series, 6-0-1.
• The Spartans won the last meeting in East Lansing in 2007, 17-13, when current Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi was in his first year as the defensive coordinator of the Spartans. Narduzzi spent eight seasons (2007-14) as the defensive coordinator for Michigan State under Mark Dantonio and was named the Broyles Award winner in 2013. The Spartans were the only team to rank in the nation’s top 10 in total defense and rushing defense each season from 2011-14. Narduzzi is in his seventh season leading the Panthers.
► SPARTAN BOWL HISTORY
• The Spartans are making their 30th all-time bowl appearance (13-16 record), including their third in a New Year’s Six bowl game (Cotton Bowl Classic during 2014 season; College Football Playoff Semifinal at Cotton Bowl Classic during 2015 season). This marks MSU’s first-ever appearance in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
• Michigan State is playing in a bowl game for the 13th time in the past 15 seasons. MSU played in a school-record nine consecutive bowl games from 2007-15 (2007 Champs Sports Bowl, 2009 Capital One Bowl, 2010 Alamo Bowl, 2011 Capital One Bowl, 2012 Outback Bowl, 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, 2014 Rose Bowl, 2015 Cotton Bowl Classic, 2015 College Football Playoff Semifinal at Cotton Bowl Classic).
• MSU has won six of its last eight bowl games.
• The Spartans tied a Big Ten record and set a school record with their four-game bowl winning streak (2011 Outback Bowl over No. 18 Georgia; 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl over TCU; 2014 Rose Bowl over No. 5 Stanford; 2015 Cotton Bowl over No. 4 Baylor).
► SPARTANS LOOKING TO WIN 11TH GAME FOR JUST THE SIXTH TIME IN SCHOOL HISTORY
• Michigan State finished the regular season with a 10-2 record, marking the ninth time in program history the Spartans have won double-digit games in a season (1965, 1999, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2021). The Spartans are looking to win their 11th game for just the sixth time in school history.
► PLENTY OF SPARTAN CONNECTIONS IN ATLANTA
• There are numerous Michigan State connections in Atlanta and the state of Georgia. Former Spartan All-American and Pro Football Hall of Fame placekicker Morten Andersen spent eight of his 25 seasons in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons (1995-2000; 2006-07); he was a first-team All-Pro for the Falcons in 1995 and kicked a game-winning 38-yard field goal in overtime in the 1998 NFC Championship Game over the Vikings that sent Atlanta into Super Bowl XXXIII against the Broncos.
• Andersen, who kicked for five teams (New Orleans, Atlanta, Kansas City, New York Giants, Minnesota) during his 25-year career, retired from the game in 2008 as the NFL’s all-time leading scorer with 2,544 points. He was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection (1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1992 and 1995) and three-time first-team All-Pro (1986, 1987 and 1995). A four-year letterman from 1978-81, Andersen closed out his career as Michigan State’s all-time leader in field goals (45), extra points (126) and scoring (261 points). He connected on nine field goals from 50-plus yards during his career, including a Big Ten-record 63-yarder at Ohio State in 1981. In 1999, Andersen was named to the Walter Camp Football Foundation All-Century Team (1900-2000). Andersen, who lives in the Atlanta area and runs the Morten Andersen Family Foundation, was inducted into the Michigan State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2011.
• A total of 12 Michigan State Spartans have played for the Atlanta Falcons: K Morten Andersen, 1995-2000; 2006-07; KR/RB DeAndra Cobb, 2005; CB Darqueze Dennard, 2020; RB T.J. Duckett, 2002-05; RB Jeremy Langford, 2018; RB Dwight Lee, 1968; TE Mitch Lyons, 1993-96; RB Henry Matthews, 1973; QB Jim Miller, 1997; LB Ike Reese, 2006-07; WR Andre Rison, 1990-94; C Sam Williams, 1966-67.
• Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz grew up in Lansing, Michigan, and has attended several Michigan State athletic events throughout the years. Smoltz originally planned on attending MSU to play baseball and basketball before getting selected in the 1985 MLB Draft by the Detroit Tigers. The only player in MLB history with 200 career wins and 150 career saves on the mound, Smoltz was inducted into Cooperstown in 2015. He spent 20 of his 21 seasons in Atlanta (1988-2008).
• Michigan State basketball All-American Steve Smith was an NBA All-Star for the Atlanta Hawks in 1998 and spent five of his 14 seasons in the NBA with Atlanta (1994-1999). Smith is a member of the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame and has his No. 21 jersey retired in the Breslin Center.
• Former Michigan State All-American cornerback Darqueze Dennard, who won the 2013 Jim Thorpe Award and helped MSU win the Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl during the 2013 season, is a native of Dry Branch, Georgia. Dennard also played for the Falcons in 2020.
► A LOOK AT THE 2021 MICHIGAN STATE COACHING STAFF
• A new era of Spartan football began in 2020 as Mel Tucker started his head coaching tenure in East Lansing. Tucker, a 25-year coaching veteran with championship experience, was named Michigan State University’s 25th head football coach on Feb. 12 following Mark Dantonio’s retirement on Feb. 4. Following an impressive 10-win regular season this fall, Tucker signed an updated contact on Nov. 24, 2021, that expires on Jan. 15, 2032. Tucker’s contract includes non-performance related compensation of $9.5 million per year, including a $5.9 million base, $3.2 million in supplemental compensation for media and personal appearances, plus a $400,000 contingent annual bonus. The contract was approved by the MSU Board of Trustees on Dec. 17.
• In just his second year in East Lansing, Tucker has led MSU to a 10-2 record and a berth in the New Year’s Six with a matchup against No. 12 Pitt in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Tucker is a finalist for National Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association, the Paul Bear Bryant Awards and the Football Writers Association of America. He was also named the Big Ten Coach of the Year by both the coaches and media and the AFCA Region 3 Coach of the Year. Going from two wins in 2020 to 10 wins in 2021, MSU has already completed the biggest turnaround in school history (previous: seven-game improvement from 2016 to 2017). Tucker also became the earliest Spartan coach to win 10 games in a season (previous: Mark Dantonio with 11 wins in his fourth season at MSU in 2010).
• Tucker’s resume, which began as a graduate assistant at Michigan State under Nick Saban, has an impressive track record of success. The journey that led him back to East Lansing included a head coaching position at Colorado (2019), five seasons as a defensive coach in the Southeastern Conference (2000; 2015-18), 10 seasons in the NFL (2005-14), and four seasons at Ohio State (2001-04). He was a defensive coordinator in the NFL for seven seasons and 11 seasons overall in his coaching career.
• In 161 games as a full-time coach in the FBS, Tucker’s teams have collected a 118-43 (.733) record, including 10 postseason bowl/playoff games (2000 Peach, 2002 Outback, 2003 Fiesta/BCS National Championship, 2004 Fiesta, 2004 Alamo, 2015 Cotton/CFP Semifinal, 2016 CFP/National Championship, 2016 Liberty, 2018 Rose/CFP Semifinal, 2018 CFP/National Championship), three conference championships, three national championship games and two national championships (2002 with Ohio State, 2015 with Alabama). He will be coaching in his 12th postseason bowl/playoff game in his coaching career in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (also coached in 1997 Aloha Bowl as a graduate assistant at Michigan State).
• Tucker previously coached in the Peach Bowl at LSU in 2000 during his one season as secondary coach with the Tigers under Nick Saban, a 28-14 victory over Georgia Tech. Tucker was the defensive coordinator for Georgia in the 2018 CFP National Championship Game against Alabama in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
• Tucker coached 160 games in the National Football League (64 with Cleveland, 64 with Jacksonville, 32 with Chicago).
• Six of MSU head coach Mel Tucker‘s 17 wins as a head coach have come against AP Top 25 opponents (2021: No. 24 Miami and No. 6 Michigan; 2020: No. 11 Northwestern and No. 13 Michigan; 2019: No. 25 Nebraska and No. 24 Arizona State at Colorado). Tucker is 6-5 overall against AP Top 25 opponents (2-2 at Colorado; 4-3 at MSU). He became the first Spartan head coach to defeat a ranked team (AP No. 11 Northwestern) in his first home win.
• Tucker was named the national coach of the week by the Dodd Trophy and The Athletic following Michigan State’s 37-33 victory over No. 6 Michigan on Oct. 30. Tucker became the first Spartan coach to win his first two games against the Wolverines (27-24 victory at No. 13 Michigan on Oct. 31, 2020).
Here are the results of Tucker’s 11 previous postseason bowl/playoff appearances (8-3 record):
• Nine of Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker‘s 10 assistant coaches from 2020 are back on the sidelines this fall for the Spartans. Tucker promoted Travares Tillman to an on-field role as cornerbacks coach in January after Tillman was a senior defensive assistant at MSU in 2020. Tillman announced on Dec. 7 that he took an assistant coaching position at his alma mater, Georgia Tech; he will still be coaching for MSU in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
• In addition, Harlon Barnett, who is in his 13th season overall on the Spartan defensive staff and second with Tucker, transitioned from cornerbacks to secondary coach. Barnett has coached four All-Americans, nine first-team All-Big Ten selections and 10 NFL Draft picks during his time at MSU (2007-17; 2020-).
• Chris Kapilovic, who is in his second season as the offensive line coach and run game coordinator at Michigan State, was promoted to assistant head coach in January. Kapilovic, 52, joined Tucker’s staff in East Lansing in February 2020 after spending the 2019 season as the offensive line coach and run game coordinator in Colorado. Kapilovic has nearly 30 years of coaching experience, including roles as an offensive coordinator and/or run game coordinator at Southern Mississippi (2008-11), North Carolina (2012-18) and Colorado (2019). He has coached multiple NFL players, first-round draft picks and record-setting offenses during his career.
• Jay Johnson is the program’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Johnson, 51, is a veteran coach and administrator of 26 seasons, including 11 as an offensive coordinator at five FBS schools (Michigan State, Colorado, Minnesota, Louisiana, Southern Mississippi) in addition to coaching quarterbacks, running backs and tight ends as a position coach. He was nominated for the Broyles Award this season, which is given annually to the nation’s best assistant coach.
• A 25-year coaching veteran with stints at all levels of collegiate football and the NFL, Scottie Hazelton is in his second season as the Secchia Family Defensive Coordinator. Last season, Hazelton installed a new 4-2-5 defensive scheme for the Spartans. Hazelton arrived in East Lansing after spending one season as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Kansas State in 2019.
• Ted Gilmore coaches the tight ends for the Spartans. Gilmore, who has coached 26 years, has experience at the FBS and NFL ranks and has developed numerous NFL players, draft picks and All-Americans during his ccareer. He was named the 2011 FootballScoop Wide Receivers Coach of the Year after mentoring consensus All-American Robert Woods and 2011 Freshman All-American Marqise Lee at USC. Gilmore, 54, previously spent five seasons (2015-19) as the wide receivers coach at Wisconsin.
• Former Spartan great Courtney Hawkins is in his second season as the wide receivers coach, while William Peagler enters his second year coaching the running backs.
• With more than three decades of coaching experience, Ross Els is in his second season as the program’s linebackers coach and special teams coordinator. Els, 54, has previous experience in the Big Ten, serving as the defensive coordinator at Purdue in 2016 and four seasons at Nebraska under Coach Bo Pelini from 2011-14.
• Ron Burton, who enters his 29th year of coaching, is in his ninth season on the defensive staff at Michigan State and coaches the defensive line. Burton is the only coach to win the FootballScoop National Defensive Line Coach of the Year Award twice, an honor he won for the second time in 2018 after MSU finished with the top-ranked rushing defense in the country. Burton also won the award during his first season in East Lansing in 2013 when the Spartans claimed the Big Ten Championship, won the Rose Bowl, and finished No. 2 in the FBS in total defense and rushing defense.
► NINETEEN SPARTANS EARN ALL-BIG TEN HONORS
• A total of 19 Michigan State players earned All-Big Ten recognition this season, including junior running back Kenneth Walker III, who was a consensus first-team selection in addition to being named the Big Ten Running Back of the Year.
2021 ALL-BIG TEN TEAMS – MICHIGAN STATE SELECTIONS
First Team – Offense
Jr. RB Kenneth Walker III
Second Team – Defense
Sr.-6 DE Jacub Panasiuk
Third Team – Offense
R-Jr. WR Jayden Reed
Honorable Mention – Offense
Sr.-6 C Matt Allen
Sr.-6 OT AJ Arcuri
Sr.-5 OG Blake Bueter
Jr. OG J.D. Duplain
Sr.-5 TE Connor Heyward
Sr. OT Jarrett Horst
Sr. OL Kevin Jarvis
R-Jr. WR Jalen Nailor
R-So. QB Payton Thorne
Honorable Mention – Special Teams
Sr.-6 PK Matt Coghlin
First Team – Offense
Jr. RB Kenneth Walker III
Second Team – Defense
Sr.-6 DE Jacub Panasiuk
Third Team – Offense
R-Jr. WR Jayden Reed
► SCHOOL-RECORD 45 SPARTANS EARN ACADEMIC ALL-BIG TEN HONORS
• For the second straight season, Michigan State set a program record with 45 Spartan football players being named to the 2021 Academic All-Big Ten Team. To be eligible for Academic All-Big Ten selection, students must be on a varsity team, be enrolled full-time at the institution for a minimum of 12 months, and carry a cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or higher.
• Michigan State’s list of honorees includes 18 multi-year selections. Three Spartans – AJ Arcuri, Luke Campbell and Matt Coghlin – were named to the Academic All-Big Ten team for the fifth time, joining a group of just five Spartans in program history to earn that distinction (Jake Hartbarger, Brandon Sowards).
• Drew Beesley, Blake Bueter, Michael Dowell and Parks Gissinger are on the academic all-conference team for the third time, while Adam Berghorst, Evan Brunning, J.D. Duplain, Michael Fletcher, Maverick Hansen, Cade McDonald, Evan Morris, James Ohonba, Nick Samac, Payton Thorne, Dan VanOpstall and Torrell Williams made the honor roll for the second time.
• This marks the third time in the last four seasons of setting new a school record of Academic All-Big Ten selections, including last year’s 33, along with 31 in 2018.
► SPARTAN OFFENSE RANKS THIRD IN BIG TEN IN SCORING
• Michigan State has shown significant improvement on offense this season under second-year offensive coordinator Jay Johnson, a Broyles Award nominee. The Spartans are third in the Big Ten and 39th in the FBS in scoring offense (31.9 ppg) and fourth in the conference and 41st overall in total offense (430.9 ypg). Last season, MSU ranked 116th in scoring offense (18.0 ppg) and 109th in total offense (330.3 ypg).
• MSU’s resurgent rushing attack ranks fifth in the Big Ten and 42nd in the FBS, averaging 185.6 yards per game. Last season, MSU averaged 91.4 ypg on the ground, which ranked 122nd in the FBS. The Spartans accumulated 326 rushing yards at Northwestern – the first time MSU put up more than 300 rushing yards in a game since 2014 (330 yards at Indiana) – and had 272 yards on the ground against Youngstown State, 249 at Rutgers and 193 at Miami. MSU is averaging 5.03 yards per carry, which is 29th in the FBS.
• Michigan State has scored nine touchdowns of 50-plus yards this season:
• 75-yard rush by Kenneth Walker vs. Northwestern (first quarter)
• 75-yard pass from Payton Thorne to Jayden Reed vs. Youngstown State (first quarter)
• 85-yard pass from Thorne to Reed vs. Youngstown State (second quarter)
• 63-yard pass from Thorne to Jalen Nailor vs. Rutgers (first quarter)
• 63-yard pass from Thorne to Nailor vs. Rutgers (second quarter)
• 65-yard pass from Thorne to Nailor vs. Rutgers (second quarter)
• 94-yard rush by Walker vs. Rutgers (third quarter)
• 58-yard rush by Walker vs. Michigan (fourth quarter)
• 52-yard pass from Thorne to Montorie Foster vs. Maryland (first quarter)
• Michigan State is tied for third in the FBS in 80-plus yard plays (2), tied for 13th in 70-plus yard plays (4), tied for seventh in 60-plus yard plays (7), and tied for 13th in 50-plus yard plays (11).
• Michigan State scored a touchdown on its first play from scrimmage in the first two games of the season. Against Northwestern, junior transfer running back Kenneth Walker III raced 75 yards to the end zone on his first carry as a Spartan, while Payton Thorne found Jayden Reed on a 75-yard touchdown pass against Youngstown State. Dating back to 1944 when school single-game play-by-play records are available, Walker’s 75-yard TD marked the first time Michigan State has scored on its first play from scrimmage to start a season. Before the season opener, the last time MSU scored on its first play from scrimmage was on Sept. 25, 2010, against Northern Colorado, as Edwin Baker had a 5-yard run following an interception on UNC’s first possession that gave MSU first-and-goal from the 5.
• Four Michigan State Spartans have earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors this season:
• RB Kenneth Walker III, Offensive Player of the Week vs. Northwestern and Michigan
• QB Payton Thorne, Co-Offensive Player of the Week vs. Miami
• WR/PR/KR Jayden Reed, Special Teams Player of the Week vs. Nebraska
• WR Jalen Nailor, Co-Offensive Player of the Week vs. Rutgers
• Michigan State achieved a rare statistical feat in Week 6 at Rutgers. For only the fifth time in FBS history, a trio of players from the same team in the same game had 300 yards passing (Payton Thorne with 339 yards), 200 yards rushing (Kenneth Walker III with 233 yards) and 200 yards receiving (Jalen Nailor with 221 yards). The previous four times are listed below:
-San Diego State, Billy Blanton (328 passing), George Jones (208 rushing) and Will Blackwell (210 receiving) vs. New Mexico, Nov. 4, 1995 (San Diego State won, 38-29)
-Pittsburgh, John Thurman (332 passing), Kevan Barlow (209 rushing) and Antonio Bryant (222 receiving) vs. Boston College, Oct. 21, 2000 (Pittsburgh won, 42-26)
-Wisconsin, Jim Sorgi (380 passing), Dwayne Smith (207 rushing) and Lee Evans (258 receiving) vs. Michigan State, Nov. 15, 2003 (Wisconsin won, 56-21)
-Oklahoma State, Zac Robinson (320 passing), Kendall Hunter (210 rushing) and Dez Bryant (235 receiving) vs. Houston, Sept. 6, 2008 (Oklahoma St. won, 56 -37)
► QUARTERBACKS: PAYTON THORNE RANKS SECOND IN BIG TEN IN PASSING TOUCHDOWNS
• Redshirt sophomore quarterback Payton Thorne, who started in the 2020 season finale at Penn State, was named the team’s starting quarterback in Week 1 against Northwestern after competing with sixth-year graduate transfer Anthony Russo (Temple) during spring practice and preseason camp. Thorne owns a 10-3 record as a starting quarterback at MSU (10-2 in 2021).
• A midseason addition to the Manning Award Watch List, Thorne has completed 61 percent of his passes (206-of-339) for 2,886 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He ranks among the Big Ten and FBS leaders in passing efficiency (third and 39th with 150.3 rating), passing TDs (second and 21st with 24), passing (sixth and 42nd with 240.5 ypg) and total offense (fifth and 44th with 255.2 ypg). Thorne was named honorable mention All-Big Ten by both the coaches and media.
• Thorne’s 24 TD passes are tied for second most in a Spartan season (school record: 25 by Kirk Cousins in 2011). He also ranks among MSU’s single-season leaders in passing yards per game (fifth with 240.5 ypg), passing efficiency (fifth with 150.3 rating), passing yards (seventh with 2,886) and total offense (eighth with 3,063 yards).
• Thorne also ranks third on the team in rushing with a net of 177 yards on 72 carries with four TDs, although he has gained a total of 328 yards on the ground.
• Thorne ranks tied for seventh in the FBS with five passes of 60-plus yards, all touchdowns (85 yards to Jayden Reed vs. Youngstown State; 75 yards to Reed vs. Youngstown State; 65 yards to Jalen Nailor vs. Rutgers; two 63-yarders to Nailor vs. Rutgers). Thorne also ranks 15th in the FBS with 987 yards of his passing coming on completions of 20-plus yards and tied for 10th with 12 TDs of 20-plus yards.
• Playing in a steady snow the entire game in the regular-season finale vs. Penn State, Thorne completed 19-of-30 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Nittany Lions. With MSU up 23-20 and just over five minutes in the game, Thorne threw a 20-yard TD pass to Jayden Reed on fourth-and-15 from the PSU 20 to put MSU on top 30-20 in the eventual 30-27 victory.
• Thorne tied his career high with four TD passes against Maryland on Nov. 13 (52 yards to Montorie Foster in first quarter; 29 yards to Jayden Reed in first quarter; 2 yards to Connor Heyward in second quarter; 3 yards to Reed in third quarter). Thorne also threw four TD passes against Miami and Youngstown State. He finished the game 22-of-31 passing for 287 yards, the second-most passing yards by a Spartan against Maryland (Brian Lewerke with 342 in 2019).
• At Purdue on Nov. 6, Thorne was 20-of-30 passing for 276 yards, two TDs (both to Tre Mosley) and one interception. He also had a 32-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter.
• Thorne helped spark a 16-point second-half comeback in the 37-33 win over No. 6 Michigan on Oct. 30 in Spartan Stadium. With the Spartans trailing 30-14, Thorne threw several key passes to rally the Spartans, including a 28-yard pass to Jayden Reed on a fourth-and-4 play from the UM 29 that set up Kenneth Walker’s 1-yard TD run in the third quarter. Thorne also converted twice on two-point conversions with passes to Tre Mosley and Reed. Overall, Thorne was 19-of-30 passing for 196 yards and two interceptions against the Wolverines.
• Thorne threw for a career-high 339 yards in the victory over Rutgers on Oct. 9, including touchdown passes of 65, 63 and 63 yards to Nailor.
• Thorne threw for 327 yards in the victory over Western Kentucky while completing 20-of-30 throws. He also had a 12-yard rushing touchdown.
• The product of Naperville, Illinois, was named the Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week by the conference office on Sept. 20 and was also recognized as the Manning Award National Quarterback of the Week for his performance at No. 24 Miami in Week 3. Thorne became just the second Spartan quarterback in school history, joining Connor Cook, to throw for four touchdowns in back-to-back games during MSU’s 38-17 victory over the Hurricanes at Hard Rock Stadium. Thorne threw for a career-high four TDs in the Week 2 win over Youngstown State, and matched that effort against Miami by completing 18-of-31 passes for 261 yards and four more touchdowns. Cook threw for four TDs in consecutive games against Indiana and Nebraska in 2015.
• At Miami, Thorne first found Kenneth Walker III on a 7-yard screen pass for a score in the second quarter, then connected with Jalen Nailor on an 11-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Thorne’s third TD pass of the game came on a third-and-7 play early in the fourth as he hit Jayden Reed in the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown. Although Thorne ended up with a net of 4 rushing yards, he scrambled for a 22-yard gain on a third-and-6 play and also converted on fourth-and-1 with a quarterback sneak to propel a touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter to make it 31-17 in favor of MSU. Thorne finished the eight-play, 75-yard drive by finding Nailor in the end zone for a 39-yard pass, one play after getting the first down on the QB sneak.
• In the 42-14 win over Youngstown State in Week 2, Thorne completed 15-of-21 passes for 280 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. It marked the first time a Spartan quarterback threw for four TDs in a game since Brian Lewerke vs. Northwestern in 2017. Thorne also had 19 yards rushing on three carries (6.3 avg.), including a 10-yard TD run.
• In his second career start, Thorne threw for 185 yards on 15-of-25 passing with one TD at Northwestern in Week 1 to earn his first win as the Spartans’ starting QB. Thorne also rushed for 28 yards on five carries.
• Thorne made first career start at Penn State on Dec. 12, 2020, in the regular-season finale and was 22-of-39 passing for 325 yards, an MSU record for both a Spartan QB in his first start, and also the most ever passing yards by a Spartan freshman. He also threw for three TDs in the game.
► RUNNING BACKS: K9 NAMED WALTER CAMP NATIONAL PLAYER OF THE YEAR
• Junior running back Kenneth Walker III (#9), a unanimous first-team All-American who was named the Walter Camp Player of the Year and winner of the Doak Walker Award, announced on Dec. 16 his decision to enter the 2022 NFL Draft and not play in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Walker finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in the FBS in rushing (1,636 yards; 136.3 ypg) and led the FBS in rushing yards after contact (1,168), 20-plus yard carries (21) and missed forced tackles (89). He became the first Spartan ever to win the Walter Camp Player of the Year and the Doak Walker Award. Walker was also named the Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Year by The Associated Press and the Ameche-Dayne Big Ten Running Back of the Year.
• Walker, who was also one of three finalists for the Maxwell Award and finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting, also ranked among the nation’s leaders in 10-plus yard carries (tied for second with 46), yards from scrimmage (sixth with 143.8 ypg), all-purpose yards (seventh with 143.8 ypg), total touchdowns (tied for seventh with 19), rushing touchdowns (eighth with 18) and yards per carry (14th with 6.2 avg.).
• Walker’s 1,636 rushing yards are the fourth most by a Spartan in a single season in school history; he was the fastest Spartan to reach 1,000 yards in a single season in terms of carries (153 carries). In addition, his 18 rushing TDs are tied for fifth most in an MSU season and his 19 overall TDs (one receiving score) are tied for fourth most.
• Walker had eight 100-yard rushing games this season, including two 200-yard games (264 vs. Northwestern on Sept. 3; 172 at Miami on Sept. 18; 126 vs. Western Kentucky on Sept. 25; 233 at Rutgers on Oct. 9; 197 vs. Michigan on Oct. 30; 136 at Purdue on Nov. 6; 143 vs. Maryland on Nov. 13; 138 vs. Penn State on Nov. 27).
• Walker is MSU’s first unanimous first-team All-American since cornerback Darqueze Dennard in 2013. Walker was named a first-team All-American by the following organizations this season: American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), The Associated Press, Sporting News, Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), Walter Camp Foundation, ESPN.com, CBS Sports, Pro Football Focus, Phil Steele and The Athletic. Overall, Walker is the 28th Spartan to earn consensus All-America honors and just the 10th Spartan to be named a unanimous first-team All-American.
• In what would be in final game as a Spartan, Walker tied his season high with 30 carries for 138 yards and one touchdown in the snow to help Michigan State beat Penn State, 30-27, on Nov. 27 in Spartan Stadium.
• Walker carried the ball a career-high 30 times for 143 yards and two touchdowns (1 yard in second quarter; 3 yards in fourth quarter) in the 40-21 win over Maryland on Nov. 13. He also finished with 173 all-purpose yards (143 rushing, 29 receiving), marking the sixth time he collected 150-plus all-purpose yards in a game this season.
• Walker collected his sixth 100-yard rushing game of the season with 136 yards on 22 carries at Purdue on Nov. 6, including a 14-yard TD on fourth down in the second quarter.
• Following a record-breaking performance in the 37-33 win over No. 6 Michigan on Oct. 30, Walker picked up several honors, including National Offensive Player of the Week (Walter Camp Football Foundation, Maxwell Award, The Athletic) and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week.
• Walker rushed for five touchdowns, the most by any player ever against the Wolverines, and finished with a total of 197 yards on just 23 carries (8.6 avg.). His scores came on runs of 27 and 8 yards in the second quarter, 1 yard in the third quarter, and 58 and 23 yards in the fourth quarter. He also had 208 all-purpose yards (197 rushing, 11 receiving). The five TDs tied for the second most in school history (record: six by Blake Ezor vs. Northwestern in 1989; five by Javon Ringer vs. Eastern Michigan in 2008). Walker had 208 yards from scrimmage in the game (11 receiving yards on three catches).
• Walker’s first carry against Michigan was for 8 yards, putting him over the 1,000-mark for the season. He became the fastest Spartan to reach 1,000 yards in terms of carries in MSU history (153 carries; previous, Javon Ringer in 2007 with 154).
• Walker’s 94-yard touchdown run in the third quarter at Rutgers on Oct. 9 was the longest rush in the 125-year history of Michigan State football, bettering a 90-yard by Lynn Chandnois vs. Arizona in 1949. It was also the longest offensive play from scrimmage in school history, topping the 93-yard pass from Tony Banks to Nigea Carter vs. Indiana in 1994. Walker finished with a career-high 29 carries for 233 yards against the Scarlet Knights. Walker also set a school record at Wake Forest for the longest touchdown run with a 96-yarder vs. Rice as a true freshman in 2019.
• Walker had his third 100-yard rushing game of the season with 126 yards on 24 carries in the victory over Western Kentucky in Week 5. He scored three touchdowns in the first half (5, 5 and 3 yards).
• After seeing limited action in Week 2 vs. Youngstown State (seven carries for 57 yards, 1 TD, 8.1 avg.), Walker was back at it in the victory at Miami on Sept. 18, compiling 172 yards on the ground on 27 carries (6.4 avg.) while also catching three passes for 17 yards, including his first career TD reception on a 7-yard screen pass in the second quarter.
• Walker had a record-setting debut as a Spartan, rushing for a career-high 264 yards – the seventh-highest total in school history – while scoring a career-high four touchdowns to lead the Spartans past Northwestern on Sept. 3. It marked the most rushing yards by a Spartan in a debut wearing the Green and White. Walker became just the second Spartan to record more than 250 rushing yards and four touchdowns in the same game (Eric Allen, school-record 350 yards and four TDs vs. Purdue on Oct. 30, 1971).
• Sophomore Jordon Simmons, who led the team in rushing as a true freshman with 219 yards on 56 carries (3.9 avg.) in five games, ranks second on the team with 255 rushing yards on 54 carries (21.3 ypg; 4.7 avg.). Simmons recorded his first 100-yard rushing game with 121 yards on 16 carries in the win over Youngstown State in Week 2.
• Redshirt junior Elijah Collins, who led the team with 988 rushing yards as a redshirt freshman in 2019, had three carries for 32 yards and one catch for a 20-yard TD against Youngstown State in Week 2 before leaving the game with an injury. After missing five games, he returned to action on special teams vs. Michigan. Collins has 12 carries for 87 yards this season (7.3 avg.).
• Redshirt junior Harold Joiner, a transfer from Auburn, has 11 carries for 35 yards (3.2 avg.).
► WIDE RECEIVERS: JAYDEN REED NAMED FINALIST FOR PAUL HORNUNG AWARD
• Redshirt junior Jayden Reed was named a first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) as an all-purpose player. He leads the team with 53 catches for 946 yards (17.9 avg.) and eight touchdowns. Reed was named one of five finalists for the Paul Hornung Award, which is awarded annually by the Louisville Sports Commission to the nation’s most versatile player.
• Reed was also named first-team All-Big Ten by The Associated Press as an all-purpose player. He ranks among the Big Ten and FBS leaders in all-purpose yards (second in Big Ten and 17th in FBS, 130.8 ypg), yards per catch (second and 31st, 17.9 avg.), touchdown catches (fourth and 37th with eight) and receiving yards (fifth and 39th with 78.8 ypg).
• Reed’s 18.5 yards per play ranks sixth most in the FBS (946 receiving yards, 376 kick return, 213 punt return, 34 rushing for a total of 1,569 yards on 85 total plays)
• He also is tied for the FBS lead with two punt returns for touchdowns (62 yards vs. Nebraska, 88 yards vs. Western Kentucky). Although he doesn’t qualify due to a statistic minimum in the NCAA stats (1.2 returns per game), Reed would rank first in the nation in punt returns with his 21.3 average and is tied for the lead with two punt returns for TDs.
• Reed has scored a total of 11 touchdowns this season (eight receiving, two punt return, one rushing), good for 10th most in the Big Ten.
• Reed leads Michigan State with 30 plays of 20-plus yards (18 passing, 9 kick return, 3 punt return), including 8 touchdowns of 20-plus yards:
• 88-yard punt return vs. Western Kentucky (fourth-longest punt return in school history)
• 85-yard pass vs. Youngstown State
• 75-yard pass vs. Youngtown State
• 62-yard punt return vs. Nebraska
• 46-yard pass vs. Western Kentucky
• 35-yard pass vs. Nebraska
• 29-yard pass vs. Maryland
• 20-yard pass vs. Penn State
• Reed left the Ohio State game on Nov. 20 in the first half with an injury and did not play in the second half against the Buckeyes, but the next week against Penn State in a steady snow the whole game, Reed came through in the clutch with six catches for 89 yards to help lead MSU to a win over the Nittany Lions, giving MSU 10 wins on the season. With MSU up 23-20 late in the fourth quarter, the Spartans faced a fourth-and-15 from the PSU 20-yard line. Reed went up and grabbed a 20-yard TD catch on fourth down, putting MSU on top 30-20 in the eventual 30-27 win.
• Reed was recognized on the Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll for the fourth time of the season for his performance in the 40-21 win over Maryland on Nov. 13. Reed led all players in the game with 210 all-purpose yards, including eight catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns (29 yards in first quarter; 3 yards in third quarter). It marked Reed’s eighth career 100-yard receiving game (four at Western Michigan in 2018; one at MSU in 2020; three at MSU in 2021). Reed also had four returns for 96 yards, including a game-long 39-yarder on the last play of the first quarter.
• With MSU trailing Michigan, 30-14, and less than five minutes left in the third quarter, the Spartans faced a fourth-and-4 from the UM 29. Reed caught a 28-yard pass at the 1-yard line, setting up Kenneth Walker’s 1-yard TD, sparking MSU’s 37-33 comeback win over the Wolverines. Reed also caught a 2-point conversion that tied the game at 30 against Michigan. Reed had six catches for 80 yards in the game.
• Reed was listed on the Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll for the third time this fall after collecting a career-high 285 all-purpose yards (127 receiving, 88 punt return, 63 kick return, 7 rushing), the seventh-most single-game total in school history, in the win over Western Kentucky on Oct. 2. Reed scored the first time he touched the ball against the Hilltoppers with an 88-yard punt return, marking his second consecutive punt return for a touchdown (62 yards vs. Nebraska in fourth quarter). He also had his second 100-yard receiving effort of the season with four catches for 127 yards vs. WKU, including a 46-yard TD in the first quarter.
• Reed was named the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week on Sept. 27; he was also recognized on the Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll for the second time this season (Week 2 vs. Youngstown State). With MSU trailing 20-13 to Nebraska late in the fourth quarter, Reed returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown to tie the game with 3:47 remaining, setting the stage for an overtime win over the Huskers. It marked MSU’s first punt return for a touchdown since Nov. 26, 2011 (Keshawn Martin 57 yards at Northwestern). Reed finished the game with 192 all-purpose yards (69 kick return, 62 punt return, 59 receiving, 2 rushing). His 41-yard kick return in the second quarter set up an MSU field goal. He also hauled in four passes for 59 yards, including a 35-yard TD catch from Thorne in the second quarter.
• Reed caught four passes for a career-high 181 yards against Youngstown State in Week 2; two of those catches came for 160 yards in the first half alone (75 yard TD on first play of the game; 85 yard TD in second quarter). He also tallied 264 all-purpose yards (181 receiving, 32 kick return, 48 punt return) against YSU.
• Redshirt junior Jalen Nailor has 31 catches for 587 yards and six TDs in eight games. Nailor has not played the last four games due to an injury (Purdue, Maryland, Ohio State, Penn State).
• Nailor was named the Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week against Rutgers after tying a school record with three touchdown receptions to go along with five catches overall for 221 yards, the fourth-highest receiving total in school history, in MSU’s 31-13 win over the Scarlet Knights. He caught TD passes of 63, 63 and 65 yards, all in the first half. According to the Big Ten Network, Nailor’s 44.2 yards per reception was the highest by a Big Ten player since 2000 (minimum five receptions), surpassing Charles Rogers’ 41.2 yards per reception vs. Wisconsin in 2001. Nailor had four catches for a school-record 208 yards in the first half alone. His 221 total receiving yards were the most ever by an opposing receiver in SHI Stadium history, bettering Larry Fitzgerald’s (Pittsburgh) 207 yards in 2003.
• Nailor had a career-high eight receptions for 128 yards vs. Western Kentucky in Week 5.
• Nailor had two TD catches at No. 24 Miami, including a 39-yard grab in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
• Nailor topped the 1,000 career yards mark in the Western Kentucky game, becoming the 46th player in MSU history to reach 1,000 career receiving yards. He has 80 catches for 1,346 yards in 27 collegiate games.
• Redshirt sophomore Tre Mosley ranks tied for third on the team with 30 catches for 472 yards and three touchdowns; he had a career-long 51-yard reception at Miami and a season-best six receptions for 70 yards vs. Nebraska on Sept. 25. Mosley had a career-best two TD catches at Purdue (26 and 11 yards).
► TIGHT ENDS: HEYWARD MAKES POSITION SWITCH, LEADS TIGHT ENDS WITH 30 RECEPTIONS
• Redshirt senior Connor Heyward converted from running back to tight end during preseason camp, and has started all 12 games at his new position. Heyward leads the Spartan tight ends and ranks third overall on the team with 30 catches for 289 yards and one TD. He also has been a key blocker for the Spartans in their 10 victories.
• Heyward has accepted an invitation to play in the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
• Former walk-on punter Tyler Hunt made the position switch to tight end in 2020 and has 14 catches for 136 yards in 11 games this season, including three starts, and a touchdown at Indiana.
• Purdue transfer Maliq Carr has six catches for 100 yards (16.7 avg.) in his first season at MSU.
► OFFENSIVE LINE: VETERAN GROUP HAS 212 CAREER STARTS
• Michigan State’s offensive line had 152 career starts returning in 2021, which ranked third most in the FBS. That number now stands at 212 career starts on the offensive line for the Spartans through 12 games. MSU has nine players of multiple games of starting experience.
• The unit was named one of 13 semifinalists for the Joe Moore Award, which is given annually to the nation’s top offensive line.
• Michigan State used the same starting lineup during the first eight games of the season, but has had to rearrange the lineup the past four games (Purdue, Maryland, Ohio State) due to an injury to starting left tackle Jarrett Horst. MSU regularly rotated nine offensive linemen in its rotation throughout the first half of the season.
• Redshirt senior Kevin Jarvis leads the way with 39 career starts, including starting assignments at three different positions. He has started at left tackle (three games in 2019) and right tackle (seven games in 2020) during the past two seasons, but started the first eight games of 2021 at right guard, where he started 17 games in 2017-18. Jarvis has started at right tackle the past four games.
• Jarrett Horst, a transfer from Arkansas State, started the first eight games at left tackle. A member of the Outland Trophy Watch List, Horst started 20 games in 2019-20 at left tackle at Arkansas State.
• Junior J.D. Duplain has 22 career starts at left guard, including all 12 games in 2021.
• Sixth-year graduate Matt Allen, who only played in one game in 2020 due to a foot injury, has started all 12 games at center. He has started 29 overall games at center throughout his career.
• Sixth-year graduate AJ Arcuri has started all 12 games (first eight games at right tackle; left tackle last four games). He started all seven games at left tackle in 2020, but made the move to right tackle this season with the addition of Horst. Arcuri, a five-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, was named a semifinalist for the Campbell Trophy.
• Center Nick Samac, guard Blake Bueter and left tackle Luke Campbell also see regular time in the playing rotation and all have multiple games of starting experience. Bueter, who has 15 career starts, has started the last four games at right guard.
• Michigan State had six players earn honorable mention All-Big Ten honors on the offensive line (Allen, Arcuri, Bueter, Duplain, Horst, Jarvis).
► SPARTAN DEFENSE RANKS 20TH IN FBS IN RUSHING DEFENSE AND FIRST IN BIG TEN IN SACKS
• Michigan State ranks first in the Big Ten and 12th in the FBS in sacks with 3.17 per game.
• The Spartans are allowing 119.4 yards per game on the ground, fifth best in the Big Ten and 20th in the FBS. MSU has not allowed a player to rush for more than 100 yards this season.
• Michigan State ranks seventh in the Big Ten and 41st in the nation in turnover margin (+0.33). MSU has forced 19 turnovers (10 fumbles, nine interceptions), tied for 37th in the FBS, and has lost 15 (six fumbles; nine interceptions; tied for 47th). MSU has a +39-point advantage in points off turnovers this season (83-44).
• A second-team All-Big Ten selection, Panasiuk has 42 career starts to his credit, most of any active Spartan, including all 12 games this season. He has played in 56 career games the past five seasons (2017-21), which is tied for the most in program history along with kicker Matt Coghlin.
• Panasiuk ranks among the Big Ten leaders in sacks (tied for eighth with 6.0 for 41 yards) and tackles for loss (tied for 15th with 9.0 for 53 yards). According to Pro Football Focus, he ranks fifth in the FBS with 66 QB pressures this season.
• Overall, he has 32 tackles, 11 QB hurries, two pass break-ups, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
• Panasiuk was named the Pro Football Focus National Defensive Player of the Week after collecting a career-high two sacks vs. Nebraska; he had seven stops overall against the Huskers.
• Panasiuk ranks among the school’s all-time leaders in sacks (13th with 15.0) and tackles for loss (tied for 15th with 30.0).
• Beesley returned to action in the Michigan game on Oct. 30 after leaving the Nebraska game on Sept. 25 in the second quarter due to an injury. He has 27 tackles, including 5.0 sacks, in eight games of action in 2021.
• Sophomore Jeff Pietrowski, who earned his first career start in Week 2 vs. Youngstown State, has 31 tackles, including 5.5 sacks (38 yards) and 7.0 TFLs (44 yards). He has also recovered a fumble and forced three fumbles this season.
• Michigan State has five players with starting experience along the interior of the defensive line, including redshirt juniors Jacob Slade (18 career starts) and Dashaun Mallory (two career starts), redshirt sophomores Maverick Hansen (three career starts) and Jalen Hunt (two career starts), and redshirt freshman Simeon Barrow (nine career starts).
• A first-team All-Big Ten selection by Pro Football Focus, Slade has 34 tackles, including three for losses and one sack; he had a career game against Nebraska with eight tackles. According to PFF, Slade has 37 pressures, which leads all Big Ten defensive tackles and ranks tied for ninth among DTs in the FBS.
• Barrow started the first nine games and has 28 tackles (2.5 TFLs). Hansen started the last three games of the regular season and has 6.0 TFLs and three sacks.
► LINEBACKERS: CROUCH, HALADAY RACKING UP TACKLES FOR THE SPARTANS
• Quavaris Crouch, a junior transfer from Tennessee, started 10 games for the Volunteers last season and started the first nine games of 2021 for the Spartans (missed Maryland and Penn State games due to injury). Crouch ranks fourth on the team with 75 tackles, including two sacks (10 yards), three QB hurries, three pass break-ups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Crouch had 13 tackles in back-to-back games vs. Indiana and Michigan. He was an honorable mention All-Big Ten choice by the coaches and media.
• Redshirt freshman Cal Haladay, who appeared in four games on special teams in 2020, emerged as a starting linebacker during preseason camp and has gone on to start 11 of 12 games this season for the Spartans. He ranks third on the team with 85 tackles, including five for losses (14 yards) and a half sack (4 yards). Haladay also has two pass break-ups, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one interception. He was named a Freshman All-American by the Maxwell Football Club and The Athletic.
• Fifth-year senior Noah Harvey, who has 14 starts to his credit throughout his career, earned his first start of the season against Maryland with Crouch sidelined. Harvey responded with five tackles and his first career interception. Harvey also earned the start against Ohio State and Penn State. He has 25 tackles this season, including three TFLs and two sacks.
► SECONDARY: HENDERSON LEADS TEAM WITH 94 TACKLES
• Senior safety and Reynoldsburg, Ohio, native Xavier Henderson, who was named a third-team All-Big Ten honoree by the media, leads the team and ranks tied for 10th in the Big Ten with 94 tackles. He also ranks first on the team and tied for 12th in the conference with a career-high 10.0 tackles for loss, including three sacks.
• Henderson has been named a game captain every week this season for the Spartans and has started 32 consecutive games at safety heading into the bowl game.
• Henderson recorded a career-high 17 tackles vs. Nebraska, the most by a Spartan since Montae Nicholson in 2016.
• Sophomore Angelo Grose, who started four games as a true freshman at nickelback in 2020, made the move to safety in spring practice and has started all 12 games at his new position this year. Grose recorded his first career interception in the win at Miami and ranks tied for fourth on the team with 75 tackles. He had a career-high 16 stops vs. Western Kentucky on Oct. 2. He also ranks second on the team with six pass break-ups.
• At nickelback, sophomore Darius Snow (86 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, one interception, one fumble recovery) has started the past eight games. He has three games with double-figure tackles, including a career-high 16 at Ohio State.
• Senior transfer Ronald Williams (Alabama) has started nine of 12 games for the Spartans. He has 38 tackles, including two TFLs, eight PBUs, one sack and one interception (vs. Miami).
• Junior transfer Chester Kimbrough (Florida) has started the last 11 games at corner for the Spartans. Kimbrough recorded his first career interception in overtime in the win over Nebraska. He has 40 tackles on the season, including three TFLs, plus three pass break-ups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
• Redshirt freshman Marqui Lowery has played in six games and has 18 tackles, including a career-high seven vs. Maryland on Nov. 13. He started his first career game on Nov. 20 at Ohio State.
• Freshman Charles Brantley made his first career pick a memorable one, sealing the win over Michigan with an interception in the last minute of the game. He has 18 tackles and four pass break-ups in seven games and earned his first career start at Purdue on Nov. 6.
► KICKER: MATT COGHLIN ALL-TIME LEADER IN FIELD GOALS IN SCHOOL HISTORY
• Sixth-year graduate Matt Coghlin has been the team’s starting placekicker for the past five seasons, dating back to 2017. Coghlin became the school’s all-time leader in field goals with his 72nd career field goal in the win over Rutgers in Week 6, surpassing Brett Swenson (2006-09). Coghlin currently ranks second in Big Ten history with 75 career field goals made (record: 78 by Penn State’s Kevin Kelly from 2005-08).
• Coghlin is also closing in on becoming MSU’s all-time leading scorer. Swenson holds that record with 377 career points; Coghlin is currently tied with Swenson with 377 points heading into the bowl game.
• Coghlin did not play at Purdue due to an injury and only kicked PATs (3-for-3) in the win over Maryland. He was also limited at Ohio State (missed 46-yard field goal; one kickoff) and Penn State (two PATs; 22-yard field goal).
• Coghlin picked up All-Big Ten honors for the fifth time in his career in 2021 (2018, first team, media; 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021, honorable mention) in addition to earning Academic All-Big Ten honors for the fifth year in a row.
• For the fourth time in his career, Coghlin was named the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week after kicking two field goals in Michigan State’s 20-15 win at Indiana on Oct. 16. Coghlin’s 51-yard field goal in the third quarter tied his career long and put MSU on top, 10-9. He added a 49-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to go 2-for-2 on field goals for the day, extending MSU’s lead to 20-15.
• Coghlin was named the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week for the third time in his career after going 3-of-4 on field goals in the win over No. 8 Northwestern on Nov. 28, 2020, including the game-winner from 48 yards out with 3:35 left in the game that put MSU on top, 23-20, in the eventual 29-20 victory.
• Coghlin connected on 3-of-4 field goals against Nebraska in Week 4, including the fifth game-winning field goal of his career with a 21-yarder in overtime. His four previous game-winners include a 34-yarder as time expired to beat No. 7 Penn State in 2017; a 21-yarder with five seconds left to defeat Indiana in 2019; a 33-yarder to beat Maryland in 2019; and a 48-yarder with 3:35 remaining to beat No. 8 Northwestern in 2020.
• Coghlin missed the Purdue game on Nov. 6 due to an injury and freshman placekicker Stephen Rusnak made his Spartan debut in Coghlin’s absence. Rusnak ended 3-of-3 on PATs, 0-1 on FGs and had five kickoffs for a 55.4 ypk average; he became the first Spartan other than Coghlin to kick a PAT since 2016.
► PUNTER: BARINGER LEADS BIG TEN IN PUNTING AVERAGE
• Redshirt senior Bryce Baringer ranks first in the Big Ten and fourth in the FBS in punting (48.6 avg.). He’s also tied for first in the conference with 25 punts of 50-plus yards, including 10 punts of 60-plus yards. Baringer is 10th in the league with 18 punts inside the 20. He was added to the Ray Guy Award Watch List on Oct. 22.
• Baringer announced on Dec. 16 that he will be returning to MSU for a sixth season in 2022.
• Baringer booted five punts of 50-plus yards at Ohio State on Nov. 20, including a season-long 74-yarder and a 61-yarder. Overall, he averaged 49.7 yards per punt (nine punts for 447 yards), including five inside the 20.
• Baringer boomed a 69-yard punt in the first quarter vs. Maryland, finishing the day with a 53.0 ypp average on four punts, marking his fourth game with 50+ average. The 69-yarder topped his previous season-long of 67-yards vs. Nebraska (9/25). Baringer added a 63-yarder also in the first quarter.
• Baringer averaged 55.8 yards per punt (five for 279 yards) in the win over Michigan Oct. 30, including a 66-yarder.
• Baringer averaged 58.8 yards per punt (six punts for 353 yards) vs. Nebraska in Week 4, the second-highest single-game punting average in Big Ten history (minimum four punts). Baringer had a season-long of 67 yards, a new season-long for the second week in a row after a 65-yarder at Miami, and part of a career-best five punts over 50-yard for the night, including three of 60-plus yards. Only former Spartan All-American punter Mike Sadler had a higher single-game punting average in the history of the Big Ten (minimum four punts; 59.2 avg. vs. Indiana on Oct. 12, 2013; four punts for 237 yards). Prior to the game on Sept. 25, Michigan State and Nebraska honored the memories of Sadler and 2015 Big Ten Punter of the Year Sam Foltz as Mike’s mother, Karen, and sister, Katie, along with Sam’s parents Jill and Gerald Foltz, participated in the coin toss. Mike Sadler and Sam Foltz were both tragically killed in a car accident on July 23, 2016, while working a kicking camp near Waukesha, Wisconsin. It marked the first time Nebraska had played in East Lansing since the tragic accident.
• Baringer was a walk-on who joined the team in September 2018 and punted in four games. He was not on the 2019 roster, but rejoined the team as a walk-on in 2020 and earned the starting position in all seven games. Baringer earned a scholarship prior to the 2021 season.
► RETURNS: JAYDEN REED NAMED FIRST-TEAM ALL-AMERICAN AS ALL-PURPOSE PLAYER
• Redshirt junior Jayden Reed was named a first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) as an all-purpose player. He was also named one of five finalists for the Paul Hornung Award, which is awarded annually by the Louisville Sports Commission to the nation’s most versatile player.
• Reed leads the team in kick returns (16 for 376 yards, 23.5 avg.) and punt returns (10 for 213 yards; 21.3 avg.). Reed is No. 17 in the FBS in all-purpose yards (135.3 ypg) and 14th in combined kick returns (589).
• Reed is tied for the FBS lead with two punt returns for touchdowns, which already ties a school single-season record; he returned back-to-back punts for scores with a game-tying 62-yarder in the fourth quarter vs. Nebraska and an 88-yarder on his first attempt vs. Western Kentucky, tying the fourth-longest punt return in MSU history.
• Reed returned back-to-back punts for a TD (fourth quarter vs. Nebraska, 62 yards; first quarter vs. Western Kentucky, 88 yards) to become just the third player in school history to return two punts for a touchdown in the same season (Bill Simpson, 1972; James Ellis, 1951); both Simpson and Ellis also returned their punts for touchdowns in back-to-back games (Simpson: 48 yards vs. Illinois on Sept. 16, 1972; 74 yards vs. Georgia Tech on Sept. 23, 1972; Ellis: 57 yards vs. Penn State on Oct. 20, 1951; 55 yards vs. Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, 1951). Ellis also returned his on back-to-back attempts, although there were other punts downed and returned by other players (Leroy Bolden) between his TD returns, where Reed returned his on back-to-back punts.
• Reed’s 62-yard punt return for a TD vs. Nebraska in Week 4 was the first punt return for a score by a Spartan since Nov. 26, 2011, when Keshawn Martin returned a punt 57 yards for a TD at Northwestern.
• Reed is tied for first among active FBS players with three punt returns for touchdowns in his career. He also had a 93-yard punt return for a TD as a freshman at Western Michigan in 2018 against Delaware State. Reed was a Freshman All-American at WMU in 2018 after collecting 1,119 all-purpose yards (797 receiving, 215 punt return, 116 kick return, -7 rushing).
• Reed’s 18.4-yard punt return average for his collegiate career ranks second among active players in the FBS.
• At the beginning of the season, the Spartans returned 48 letterwinners to the roster, including 26 on offense, 20 on defense and two on special teams. MSU had 31 players returning in 2021 with starting experience, including 20 on offense and 11 on defense.
• Six Spartan seniors – center Matt Allen, offensive tackle AJ Arcuri, defensive end Drew Beesley, offensive lineman Luke Campbell, kicker Matt Coghlin and defensive end Jacub Panasiuk – took advantage of a rare opportunity, staying at MSU for another year with an extra season of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Allen, Arcuri, Beesley, Campbell and Coghlin all came back for a sixth year, while Panasiuk returned for a fifth season.
► SPARTANS ADD 44 NEW PLAYERS TO 2021 ROSTER, INCLUDING 20 TRANSFERS
• Michigan State has 44 new players on the 2021 roster. Twenty of those 44 players are transfers, including 17 from FBS programs and 14 from Power 5 schools. Here’s a breakdown of the incoming transfers by conference/division:
» SEC (5): LB Quavaris Crouch-Tennessee; RB Harold Joiner-Auburn, CB Chester Kimbrough-Florida; TE Powers Warren-Mississippi State; CB Ronald Williams-Alabama
» ACC (4): WR Christian Fitzpatrick-Louisville; DE Drew Jordan-Duke; CB Marqui Lowery-Louisville; RB Kenneth Walker III-Wake Forest
» Big Ten (3): DE Itayvion Brown-Minnesota; TE Maliq Carr-Purdue; LB Ben VanSumeren-Michigan
» AAC (1): QB Anthony Russo-Temple
» Big 12 (1): P Cody Waddell-Texas Tech
» Pac-12 (1): CB Khary Crump-Arizona
» Sun Belt (1): OT Jarrett Horst-Arkansas State
» Independent (1): LB Samih Beydoun-Army West Point
» Division II (1): DB Kendell Brooks-North Greenville
» Division III (1): CB Spencer Rowland-Wheaton College
» Junior College (1): OT Brandon Baldwin-Independence Community College
► MICHIGAN STATE ONE OF THE WINNINGEST FBS PROGRAMS IN HISTORY
• Michigan State is one of 31 programs in the FBS to win more than 700 games. The Spartans currently rank No. 26 all-time with 720 victories (all-time record: 720-471-44, .600). Michigan State is celebrating its 125th season in 2021.
► UNDEFEATED AT HOME
• Michigan State went a perfect 6-0 at home in Spartan Stadium this year, with wins over Youngstown State, Nebraska, Western Kentucky, Michigan, Maryland and Penn State. It marked the 21st time MSU has gone undefeated at Spartan Stadium since the facility opened in 1923.
► ALL IN THE FAMILY
• Michigan State has a deep family legacy on the 2021 roster, from siblings to fathers to relatives. In fact, nine players and five staff members have direct family connections who played Spartan football, or are alumni of the program.
Legacy: Matt Allen (brothers Jack and Brian); Charles Brantley (cousin Herb Haygood); Michael Dowell (brothers Andrew and David); Dallas Fincher (father Mark); Tate Hallock (father Ty, brother Tanner); Jacob Isaia (grandfather Bob Apisa); Jacub Panasiuk (brother Mike); Darius Snow (uncle Percy), Geno VanDeMark (grandfather Allan).
Brothers: Jacob/Zach Slade
Alumni: DB coach Harlon Barnett (CB from 1986-89), Director of Player Engagement Darien Harris (LB from 2012-15), WR coach Courtney Hawkins (WR from 1988-91); Associate head strength and conditioning coach Lorenzo Guess (S from 1998-2001; Defensive analyst Kevin Vickerson (DE from 2001-04).
► SPARTANS NAMED NATIONAL TEAM OF THE WEEK FOR A RECORD NINTH TIME
• Following its 37-33 win over then-No. 6 Michigan on Oct. 30, Michigan State was named the Cheez-It Bowl National Team of the Week, the Football Writers Association of America announced on Nov. 2. It marked the ninth time MSU has received the award and the second straight year after beating Michigan.
• Michigan State has defeated Michigan 10 times in the past 14 meetings.
• This is the record ninth time for Michigan State to earn this honor from the FWAA.
Michigan State National Team of the Week History (award started in 2002)
Oct. 30, 2021: 37-33 win over No. 6 Michigan
Oct. 31, 2020: 27-24 win over No. 13 Michigan
Nov. 21, 2015: 17-14 win over No. 2 Ohio State
Nov. 2, 2013: 29-6 win over No. 23 Michigan
Oct. 15, 2011: 28-14 win over No. 11 Michigan
Oct. 2, 2010: 34-24 win over No. 11 Wisconsin
Oct. 21, 2006: 41-38 win over Northwestern (largest comeback in NCAA FBS history)
Sept. 17, 2005: 44-41 overtime win over No. 10 Notre Dame
Nov. 13, 2004: 49-14 win over No. 4 Wisconsin
► MICHIGAN STATE-MICHIGAN ONE OF THE MOST-WATCHED GAMES OF THE 2021 SEASON
• The Michigan State-Michigan game on Oct. 30 on FOX averaged 9.289 million viewers, making it the fifth-most watched game of the 2021 regular season.
► MICHIGAN STATE OPENED SEASON 8-0 FOR JUST THE SEVENTH TIME IN PROGRAM HISTORY
• Michigan State opened the season 8-0 for just the seventh time in school history (1951, 1952, 1965, 1966, 2010, 2015, 2021) and for the first time since winning the Big Ten title and advancing to the College Football Playoff in 2015. MSU also opened at 5-0 in Big Ten play for the first time since 2013 and for just the fourth time in school history (1965, 1966, 2013, 2021).
► SPARTANS FEATURED TWICE ON ESPN’S COLLEGE GAMEDAY
• Michigan State was featured twice on ESPN College GameDay this season (Oct. 30 in East Lansing vs. No. 6 Michigan; Nov. 20 in Columbus at No. 4 Ohio State). With nine campus appearances by College GameDay, Michigan State is tied for 10th most among FBS programs.
• Overall, College GameDay has been at the site of a Michigan State game 16 times. MSU has a 9-7 record in those games.
► SPARTANS WELCOME 26 NEW PLAYERS DURING EARLY SIGNING PERIOD
• Michigan State signed 22 players to National Letters of Intent and welcomed four transfers during the early signing period (Dec. 15-17). For complete bios, please visit Signing Day Central at msuspartans.com.
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