Michigan State Spartans Football News: Big Ten East Division Showdown in Columbus, #7 Michigan State vs. #3 Ohio State, 12 Noon

Game 11: No. 7 Michigan State (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten) at No. 4 Ohio State (9-1, 7-0 Big Ten)

Date: Saturday, Nov. 20
Kickoff: 12:10 p.m. EST
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Stadium: Ohio Stadium (102,780)
Surface: FieldTurf

TV: ABC
Mobile: WatchESPN/ESPN app
Announcers: Chris Fowler (play-by-play), Kirk Herbstreit (analyst), Holly Rowe (sidelines)

Radio: Spartan Media Network | Affiliate Listings
Play-by-Play: George Blaha
Analyst: Jason Strayhorn
Sidelines: Bobby McAllister
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. 83), XM (Ch. 83), SiriusXM app (Ch. 83)
Pre-game Show: Begins at 10:30 a.m.

All-Time Series: OSU leads, 34-15
All-Time Series in Columbus: OSU leads, 16-9

COACHES:
MSU Head Coach: Mel Tucker
MSU Record: 11-6 (second year)
Overall Record: 16-13 (third year)
Record vs. OSU: 0-1

Ohio State Head Coach: Ryan Day
OSU Record: 32-3 (third year)
Overall Record: 32-3 (third year)
Record vs. MSU: 2-0

Mel Tucker Michigan State FTB coach at 2021 Big Ten Media Days (megasportsnews.com photo)

FIRST-AND-10 –
• No. 7 Michigan State (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten) travels to No. 4 Ohio State (9-1, 7-0 Big Ten) on Saturday, Nov. 20 at noon in a showdown for first place in the Big Ten East Division. The Buckeyes are in first place at 7-0, while the Spartans are tied for second at 6-1. Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, and Holly Rowe will have the call on ABC. MSU defeated Maryland last Saturday in Spartan Stadium, 40-21, while OSU beat Purdue, 59-31, in Columbus. ESPN College GameDay will broadcast live in Columbus on Saturday prior to the game.

• Saturday’s game will be the 50th meeting between Michigan State and Ohio State. The Buckeyes lead the all-time series, 34-15, including a 16-9 record in Columbus. MSU is looking for its first win over Ohio State since 2015, when the Spartans beat the No. 2 Buckeyes, 17-14, at Ohio Stadium en route to winning the Big Ten Championship and earning a berth in the College Football Playoff.

• The Spartans have defeated the Buckeyes three times since 2011, the most of any team in the Big Ten.  Michael Geiger hit a 41-yard field goal as time expired to give No. 9 Michigan State a 17-14 victory over No. 2 Ohio State in 2015 in Columbus to snap the Buckeyes’ 23-game winning streak. The Spartans held the Buckeyes to 132 yards of total offense in that game. In the 2013 Big Ten Championship Game, No. 10 MSU snapped No. 2 Ohio State’s school-record 24-game winning streak with a 34-24 win as the Spartans clinched their first Rose Bowl berth in 26 years. MSU also beat the Buckeyes in 2011, 10-7, in Ohio Stadium.

• The Spartans have toppled Ohio State 10 times when the Buckeyes entered the game ranked in the AP Top 25, including five times when the Buckeyes were ranked in the top five (No. 5 in 1972, No. 1 in 1974, No. 1 in 1998, No. 2 in 2013, No. 2 in 2015) and seven in the top 10 (previous five games listed plus No. 7 in 1951 and No. 9 in 1971). This Saturday marks the fifth time Michigan State and Ohio State have met as AP Top 10 teams (OSU at No. 5; MSU at No. 7); MSU is 3-1 in the previous four meetings.

• Junior running back and Heisman Trophy candidate Kenneth Walker III continues to lead the FBS in rushing, averaging 147.3 yards per game. He has led the nation in rushing for all but one week of the 2021 season. He also leads the FBS in total rushing yards (1,473), rushing touchdowns (17), yards after contact (1,068), 20-plus yard carries (19) and 10-plus yard carries (40). In addition, Walker ranks among the FBS leaders in yards from scrimmage (third with 155.8 ypg), scoring (second with 10.8 ppg), total touchdowns (second with 18), total points (second with 108), all-purpose yards (fifth with 155.8 ypg) and yards per carry (11th with 6.49 avg.).

• Through 10 games, Walker has collected an FBS-leading 1,473 rushing yards, the most by a Spartan since Jeremy Langford had 1,522 yards in 13 games in 2014. That was also the last time MSU had a 1,000-yard rusher. Walker was the fastest Spartan to reach 1,000 yards in a single season in terms of carries (153 carries). Walker’s 17 TDs are sixth most in an MSU season and his 1,473 rushing yards are eighth most.

• Senior safety and Pickerington, Ohio, native Xavier Henderson, who was named a second-team midseason All-American by The Athletic, leads the team and ranks seventh in the Big Ten with 82 tackles. He also ranks first on the team and tied for ninth 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 30 consecutive games at safety heading into Saturday’s game vs. Ohio State.

• The Spartans rose one spot to seventh in The Associated Press Poll and also up one position to eighth in the USA TODAY/AFCA Coaches Poll this week. MSU has been ranked in the top 10 of both national polls for six consecutive weeks. The updated College Football Playoff rankings will be released on Tuesday at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

• Michigan State was ranked seventh in the third week of the College Football Playoff Top 25 released by the CFP selection committee on Nov. 16. The Spartans have been ranked in all three CFP rankings this year (No. 3 on Nov. 2; No. 7 on Nov. 9). MSU’s No. 3 CFP ranking on Nov. 2 equaled the highest in school history (also ranked No. 3 in final CFP rankings in 2015) after starting the season 8-0.

• Redshirt sophomore quarterback Payton Thorne, a midseason addition to the Manning Award Watch List, has completed 63 percent of his passes (173-of-273) for 2,460 yards, 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He ranks among the Big Ten and FBS leaders in passing efficiency (second and 21st with 158.6 rating), passing TDs (second and 18th with 21), passing (sixth and 33rd with 246.0 ypg) and total offense (sixth and 37th with 260.7 ypg). Thorne also ranks third on the team in rushing with a net of 147 yards on 60 carries with three TDs, although he has gained a total of 284 yards on the ground. Thorne ranks tied for third 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 eighth in the FBS with 944 yards of his passing coming on completions of 20-plus yards and tied for fifth with 11 TDs of 20-plus yards.

STAT LEADERS –
Michigan State:

Rushing – Jr. Kenneth Walker III (227 carries for 1,473 yards, 6.5 avg., 17 TDs)
Passing – R-So. Payton Thorne (173-of-273, .637, 2,460 yards, 21 TDs, 8 INTs)
Receiving – R-Jr. Jayden Reed (45 catches for 829 yards, 18.4 avg., 7 TDs)
Tackles – Sr. S Xavier Henderson (82 tackles, 52 solo, 30 assists, 10 TFLs, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 2 PBUs, 1 FF)

Ohio State:
Rushing – Fr. TreVeyon Henderson (140 carries for 1,028 yards, 7.3 avg., 14 TDs)
Passing – R-Fr. C.J. Stroud (214-of-311, .688, 3,036 yards, 30 TDs, 5 INTs)
Receiving – So. Jaxon Smith-Njigba (59 receptions for 1,027 yards, 17.4 avg., 5 TDs)
Tackles – So. Ronnie Hickman (82 tackles, 47 solo, 35 assists, 1 TFL, 1 sack, 2 INTs)

A QUICK GLANCE AT NO. 5/4 OHIO STATE (9-1, 7-0 BIG TEN) –
• The Buckeyes have a 9-1 overall and 7-0 Big Ten mark, having won their last eight in a row. OSU opened the season with a win at Minnesota (45-31) on Sept. 2, before a home loss vs. then-No. 12 Oregon (35-28) on Sept. 11. Since the loss to the Ducks, the Buckeyes have out-scored their opposition, 390-136 (48.8-17.0), in their eight straight wins.

• Last time out, Ohio State denied any chance of a Purdue upset very quickly, jumping out to a 21-7 lead in the first quarter, expanding the lead to 45-17 at halftime, and coasting to a 59-31 win. OSU amassed 624 yards of total offense, with 361 through the air and 263 on the ground, while Purdue had 481 yards of total offense on 390 yards passing and 91 yards rushing.

• Freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud was 31-of-38 passing for 361 yards and five TDs, with three coming in the first half, on the way to earning Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week and Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors.

• Stroud’s primary targets were the wide receiver combo of junior Garrett Wilson and sophomore Jaxon Smith-Njigba, with Wilson snaring 10 catches for 126 yards and three TDs, while Smith-Njigbahad nine catches for 139 yards and one TD. Senior wideout Chris Olave added nine receptions for 85 yards. Wilson also added a 51-yard scoring rush.

• Redshirt freshman running back Miyan Williams had 14 carries for 117 yards, while freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson rushed 13 times for 98 yards and two TDs.

• Freshman cornerback Denzel Burke led the Buckeye defense with 11 tackles and one pass break-up. Sophomore safety Bryson Shaw added eight tackles, including 0.5 tackle for loss, while junior defensive end Zach Harrison had a game-high 2.0 TFL.

• Senior placekicker Noah Ruggles made his only field goal attempt, from 30-yards out, and was 8-for-8 on PATs.

• Overall, Ohio State is leads both the Big Ten and FBS in scoring offense (46.3 ppg), while ranking sixth in the league and 23rd in the FBS in scoring defense (20.2 ppg). The Buckeyes also top the Big Ten and FBS in total offense, also ranking first in the conference and sixth in the country in passing offense (353.6 ypg), while ranking fifth in the league and 30th in the nation in rushing offense (196.8 ypg). OSU’s defense is eighth in the Big Ten and 55th in the FBS in total defense (367.4 ypg), while ranking third in the league and 13th in the nation in rushing defense (105.9 ypg) and 13th in the conference and 108th in the country in passing yards allowed (261.5 ypg).

• Stroud has 214-for-311 passing for 3,036 yards with 30 TDs against just five INTs this season. He leads the Big Ten and ranks sixth in the FBS in passing yards per game (337.3 ypg), as well as leading the conference and ranking fifth in the country in both passing TDs (30) and passing efficiency (179.4). Stroud also tops the Big Ten and ranks seventh in the FBS in points responsible for per game (20.0).

• OSU’s trio of receivers are all ranked in the top 10 in receiving yards, receptions per game and receiving TDs. Smith-Njigba leads the way with 59 catches for 1,027 yards, ranking second in the league and 11th in the FBS in both receiving yards per game (102.7) and total receiving yards (1,027), while ranking third in the conference and 34th in the country in receptions per game (5.9) and sixth in the league and 74th in the nation in receiving TDs (5).

• Olave shares the league and nation lead in receiving TDs (11), while ranking sixth in the conference and 58th in the country in receptions per game (5.1) and eighth in the league and 57th in the nation in receiving yards per game (70.8), totaling 51 catches for 708 yards (13.9 ypc/70.8 ypg)

• Wilson is tied for second in the B1G and tied for eighth in FBS in receiving TDs (9), while ranking fourth in the conference and 23rd in the country in receiving yards per game (90.3) and also fourth in the conference and 38th in the country in receptions per game (5.9), with 53 total receptions for 813 yards (15.3 ypc/90.3 ypg).

• Henderson has 140 carries for 1,028 yards, ranking third in the Big Ten and 18th in the FBS in rushing yards per game (102.8). He also leads the league and ranking second in the nation in rushing yards per carry (7.3), and ranking second in the conference and eighth in the country in rushing TDs (14), ranking third in the league and seventh in FBS in scoring (10.2 ppg)

• Sophomore safety Ronnie Hickman leads the OSU defense with 82 total tackles (8.2 pg), with a team-high tying two INTs, along with 1.0 tackle for loss on 1.0 sack.

• Harrison has a team-best 7.0 tackles for loss, adding 4.0 sacks, while graduate defensive tackle Haskell Garrett has 6.0 TFLs and 4.5 sacks. Burke has a team-best nine passes defended, on a team-high eight pass break-ups and one INT.

• Ruggles is 16-of-16 on field goals, with a long of 46-yards, while making 57-of-57 PATs. He is second in the B1G and sixth in the FBS in scoring (10.5 ppg) on 105 total points. Ruggles also handles OSU’s kickoff duties, with 81 kickoffs for a 60.8 ypk average with 21 touchbacks.

• Freshman punter Jesse Mirco has 24 punts for a 41.6 ypp average with a long of 62-yards, one of two punts of 50+ yards, with 14 inside the 20.

• OSU head coach Ryan Day has a 32-3 record in his third season leading the Buckeyes.

• Former Michigan State player Grayson Miller (2015-18) is a graduate assistant for the Ohio State defensive coaching staff.

MSU/OHIO STATE SERIES NOTES –
• Saturday’s game will be the 50th meeting between Michigan State and Ohio State. The Buckeyes lead the all-time series, 34-15, including a 16-9 record in Columbus. MSU is looking for its first win over Ohio State since 2015, when the Spartans beat the No. 2 Buckeyes, 17-14, at Ohio Stadium en route to winning the Big Ten Championship and earning a berth in the College Football Playoff.

• The Spartans have defeated the Buckeyes three times since 2011, the most of any team in the Big Ten.  Michael Geiger hit a 41-yard field goal as time expired to give No. 9 Michigan State a 17-14 victory over No. 2 Ohio State in 2015 in Columbus to snap the Buckeyes’ 23-game winning streak. The Spartans held the Buckeyes to 132 yards of total offense in that game. In the 2013 Big Ten Championship Game, No. 10 MSU snapped No. 2 Ohio State’s school-record 24-game winning streak with a 34-24 win as the Spartans clinched their first Rose Bowl berth in 26 years. MSU also beat the Buckeyes in 2011, 10-7, in Ohio Stadium.

• The Spartans have toppled Ohio State 10 times when the Buckeyes entered the game ranked in the AP Top 25, including five times when the Buckeyes were ranked in the top five (No. 5 in 1972, No. 1 in 1974, No. 1 in 1998, No. 2 in 2013, No. 2 in 2015) and seven in the top 10 (previous five games listed plus No. 7 in 1951 and No. 9 in 1971).

• This Saturday marks the fifth time Michigan State and Ohio State have met as AP Top 10 teams. MSU is 3-1 in the previous four meetings (No. 1 MSU 24, No. 7 OSU 20 in 1951; No. 8 OSU 21, No. 10 MSU 10 in 1960; No. 10 MSU 34, No. 2 OSU 24 in 2013 Big Ten Championship Game; No. 9 MSU 17, No. 2 OSU 14 in 2015).

• Mel Tucker was a graduate assistant on Nick Saban’s staff during MSU’s win at No. 1 Ohio State in 1998.

SPARTANS FROM THE BUCKEYE STATE –
• Michigan State’s 2021 roster features 18 players from Ohio, the most of any state outside of Michigan.

LAST TIME OUT: NO. 7 MSU 40, MARYLAND 21

SERIES

• Michigan State defeated Maryland, 40-21, last Saturday at Spartan Stadium . . . it marked MSU’s fourth consecutive win over the Terrapins . . . MSU is 6-1 against Maryland in Big Ten games and 10-2 overall . . . MSU also improved to 7-1 against Maryland in East Lansing.

OFFENSE
• Kenneth Walker III collected his seventh 100-yard rushing game of the season with 143 yards on a career-high 30 carries . . . he also tallied 172 all-purpose yards (two catches for 29 yards, including season-long 17-yarder); he has totaled 150-plus all-purpose yards in six games this season . . . Walker scored two touchdowns (1 yard in second quarter; 3 yards in fourth quarter) to give him 17 for the year, which is tied for seventh most in an MSU season; his 18 overall TDs are tied for sixth most . . . Walker has 1,473 rushing yards through 10 games, which is already eighth most in an MSU season.

• Payton Thorne tied his career high with four TD passes (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 . . . Thorne was 22-of-31 passing for 287 yards, the second-most passing yards by a Spartan against Maryland (Brian Lewerke with 342 in 2019) . . . Thorne now has 21 TD passes, tied for sixth most in a Spartan season.

• Jayden 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) . . . he became the first Spartan to record a 100-yard receiving game against Maryland . . . 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 . . . Reed has 45 catches for 829 yards and seven TDs this season.

• Montorie Foster caught his first career TD pass on a 52-yard flea flicker from Payton Thorne in the first quarter. It marked the fourth time MSU has scored a touchdown on a flea flicker this season (Youngstown State, Nebraska, Rutgers, Maryland).

DEFENSE
• Michigan State had one interception (Noah Harvey) Saturday for its ninth straight game with at least one takeaway, as the Northwestern game remains the only game this season in which the Spartans did not collect a takeaway.

• The Spartan defense posted a season-high 48-yards off sacks, bettering the previous high of 34 vs. Nebraska (9/25) . . . MSU collected four sacks Saturday, tying for second most on the season . . . MSU’s four sacks Saturday were by four different players: Xavier HendersonNoah HarveyJeff Pietrowski and Kyle King.

• Michigan State also had a season-high 56 yards on seven tackles for loss, topping the previous high of 38 yards, also vs. Nebraska (9/25).

• Senior safety Xavier Henderson shared the team lead with seven tackles, marking his ninth time in the 10 games with seven or more stops . . . Henderson also posted 1.0 sack and 1.0 tackle for loss, as he now has at least 1.0 TFL in nine of the 10 games . . . he now extends his team-lead to 10.0 TFLs on the season, while his 3.0 sacks ranks second most for the defense.

• Sophomore nickelback Darius Snow also shared the team lead with seven tackles, marking his sixth straight game with five or more stops . . . Snow also added a pass break-up for his second PBU of the season.

• Redshirt freshman cornerback Marqui Lowery logged a career-high seven tackles to join the defense-leading efforts, nearly doubling his previous season-high total of eight tackles entering the game.

• Senior linebacker Noah Harvey drew his 13th career start Saturday, snaring his first career interception, while logging season highs of five stops, 1.0 sack, 1.0 TFL and one pass break-up . . . Harvey snagged the interception and had a 35-yard return, the second-longest of the season by a Spartan, behind Chester Kimbrough’s 62-yard return in Nebraska game (9/25) . . . Harvey now has 11.0 career tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks.

• Sophomore defensive end Jeff Pietrowski posted a sack for the second straight game and fifth contest this season, as he now has 5.5 sacks this season . . . Pietrowski also added a forced fumble for the second game in a row, his third forced fumble of both the season and his career, matching last week at Purdue (11/6) and at Miami (9/18).

• Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Kyle King registered his first sack of his career.

SPECIAL TEAMS
• Fifth-year senior punter Bryce Baringer boomed a season-long 69-yard punt in the first quarter, finishing the day with a 53.0 ypp average on four punts, marking his fourth game with a 50-plus yard 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, as he now has eight punts of 60+ yards this season, past of 20 going for 50+ yards . . . he also had two inside the 20, giving him 14 this season and 27 for his career.

• Senior placekicker Matt Coghlin returned to limited duty after missing last week with an injury . . . Coghlin made all three of his PAT attempts, as he is now 36-of-36 on PATs this season and 143-of-143 for his career . . . Coghlin also now has 371 career points, becoming just the second player in MSU history with 370 points, and closing in on the career record of 377 points by Brett Swenson (2006-09).

• Last Saturday was Coghlin’s 54th career game, as he and teammate Jacub Panusiuk tied the MSU career games played record along with Mike Sadler, Marcus Rush, Shilique Calhoun, Darien Harris, Taybor Pepper and Taiwan Jones.

2021 SPARTAN 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.

• 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 159 games as a full-time coach in the FBS, Tucker’s teams have collected a 117-42 (.736) record, including 10 postseason bowl 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).

• 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 16 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 6-4 overall against AP Top 25 opponents (2-2 at Colorado; 4-2 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).

• Tucker was named to the midseason watch list for the Dodd Trophy Coach of the Year on Oct. 21. The Dodd Trophy, college football’s most coveted coaching award, celebrates the head coach of a team who enjoys success on the gridiron, while also stressing the importance of scholarship, leadership and integrity – the three pillars of legendary coach Bobby Dodd’s philosophy.

• 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.

• In addition, Harlon Barnett, who is in his 13th season overall on the Spartan defensive staff and second with Tucker, will transition 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 has been 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.

OFFENSIVE NOTES

TEAM
• 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 26th in the FBS in scoring offense (34.6 ppg) and third in the conference and 23rd overall in total offense (449.6 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 fourth in the Big Ten and 27th in the FBS, averaging 197.8 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 and 193 at Miami. MSU is averaging 5.27 yards per carry, which is 12th 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 first in the FBS in 80-plus yard plays (2) and tied for sixth in 70-plus yard plays (4) and 60-plus yard plays (7). MSU is also tied for eighth with 11 plays of 50-plus yards.

• 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:

QUARTERBACKS: PAYTON THORNE RANKS SECOND IN BIG TEN IN PASSING EFFICIENCY
• 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 9-2 record as a starting quarterback at MSU (9-1 in 2021).

• A midseason addition to the Manning Award Watch List, Thorne has completed 63 percent of his passes (173-of-273) for 2,460 yards, 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He ranks among the Big Ten and FBS leaders in passing efficiency (second and 21st with 158.6 rating), passing TDs (second and 18th with 21), passing (sixth and 33rd with 246.0 ypg) and total offense (sixth and 37th with 260.7 ypg).

• Thorne’s 21 TD passes are tied for sixth most in a Spartan season (school record: 25 by Kirk Cousins in 2011).

• Thorne also ranks third on the team in rushing with a net of 147 yards on 60 carries with three TDs, although he has gained a total of 284 yards on the ground.

• Thorne ranks tied for third 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 eighth in the FBS with 944 yards of his passing coming on completions of 20-plus yards and tied for fifth with 11 TDs of 20-plus yards.

• 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.

Kenneth Walker III in action vs. Michigan 2021 (courtesy Michigan State Athletic Communications)

RUNNING BACKS: K9 LEADS THE FBS IN RUSHING
• Junior running back and Heisman Trophy candidate Kenneth Walker III continues to lead the FBS in rushing, averaging 147.3 yards per game. He has led the nation in rushing for all but one week of the 2021 season. He also leads the FBS in total rushing yards (1,473), rushing touchdowns (17), yards after contact (1,068), 20-plus yard carries (19) and 10-plus yard carries (40).

• In addition, Walker ranks among the FBS leaders in yards from scrimmage (third with 155.8 ypg), scoring (second with 10.8 ppg), total touchdowns (second with 18), total points (second with 108), all-purpose yards (fifth with 155.8 ypg) and yards per carry (11th with 6.49 avg.).

• Through 10 games, Walker has collected an FBS-leading 1,473 rushing yards, the most by a Spartan since Jeremy Langford had 1,522 yards in 13 games in 2014. That was also the last time MSU had a 1,000-yard rusher. Walker was the fastest Spartan to reach 1,000 yards in a single season in terms of carries (153 carries). Walker’s 17 TDs are sixth most in an MSU season and his 1,473 rushing yards are eighth most.

• One of 15 semifinalists for the Maxwell Award and the Walter Camp Player of the Year, Walker was named a first-team midseason All-American by The Associated Press, CBS Sports, ESPN.com, The Athletic and The Sporting News. He was also named one of 10 semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award.

• Walker has seven 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).

• Here’s how Walker stacks up through 10 games against the last two running backs to win the Heisman Trophy (Derrick Henry of Alabama in 2015 and Mark Ingham of Alabama in 2009).

• 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 has 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 III collected 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 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’s 94-yard TD run is also tied for the fifth-longest rush in the FBS in 2021.

• 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 and the fourth most by a player in the FBS this season. 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).

• 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 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).

• Led by a school-record 94-yard touchdown run at Rutgers, 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 is averaging 157.3 rushing yards per game against FBS opponents this season (264 vs. Northwestern; 172 vs. Miami; 61 vs. Nebraska; 126 vs. Western Kentucky; 233 vs. Rutgers; 84 vs. Indiana; 197 vs. Michigan; 136 vs. Purdue; 143 vs. Maryland).

• 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 232 rushing yards on 47 carries (23.2 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 four carries for 39 yards this season.

• Redshirt junior Harold Joiner, a transfer from Auburn, has nine carries for 39 yards (4.3 avg.).

WIDE RECEIVERS: JAYDEN REED NAMED FINALIST FOR PAUL HORNUNG AWARD
• Michigan State features a receiving duo in redshirt junior Jayden Reed and redshirt junior Jalen Nailor that both rank among the Big Ten leaders in several categories. Reed leads the team with 45 catches for 829 yards, while Nailor has 31 receptions for 587 yards. Nailor has not played the last two games due to an injury (Purdue, Maryland).

• Reed was named a first-team midseason All-American by CBS Sports as an all-purpose player and by The Sporting News as a returner. He was a second-team midseason All-American by The Athletic as an all-purpose player.

• 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 ranks among the Big Ten and FBS leaders in all-purpose yards (third in Big Ten and 13th in FBS, 138.8 ypg), yards per catch (third and 26th, 18.4 avg.) and receiving yards (fifth and 32nd with 82.9 ypg).

• 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 tied for 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 10 touchdowns this season (seven receiving, two punt return, one rushing), good for seventh most in the Big Ten.

• 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.

• 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). Reed has seven 100-yard receiving games in his career (four at Western Michigan in 2018; one  at MSU in 2020; two at MSU in 2021). He also tallied 264 all-purpose yards (181 receiving, 32 kick return, 48 punt return) against YSU. Reed’s 181-yard receiving effort vs. YSU is the highest in the Big Ten in 2021.

• Redshirt junior Jalen Nailor has 31 catches for 587 yards and six TDs in eight games. He ranks second in the Big Ten and 19th nationally in yards per catch (18.9 avg.).

• 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 72 catches for 1,249 yards in 25 collegiate games.

• Redshirt sophomore Tre Mosley ranks third on the team with 28 catches for 417 yards; 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 22 RECEPTIONS
• Redshirt senior Connor Heyward converted from running back to tight end during preseason camp, and has started all 10 games at his new position. Heyward has 22 catches for 209 yards and one TD and has been a key blocker for the Spartans in their nine victories.

• Former walk-on punter Tyler Hunt made the position switch to tight end in 2020 and has 12 catches for 106 yards in 10 games this season, including a starting assignment vs. Youngstown State and a touchdown at Indiana.

OFFENSIVE LINE: VETERAN GROUP HAS 202 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 202 career starts on the offensive line for the Spartans through 10 games.  MSU has nine players of multiple games of starting experience.

• Michigan State used the same starting lineup during the first eight games of the season, but had to rearrange the lineup the past two games (Purdue, Maryland) 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 37 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 started at right tackle vs. Purdue and Maryland.

• 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 20 career starts at left guard, including all 10 games in 2021.

• Sixth-year graduate Matt Allen, who only played in one game in 2020 due to a foot injury, has started the first 10 games at center. He has started 27 overall games at center throughout his career.

• Sixth-year graduate AJ Arcuri has started all 10 games (first eight games at right tackle; left tackle vs. Purdue and Maryland). 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 four-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 13 career starts, has started the last two games at right guard.

DEFENSIVE NOTES

TEAM
• Michigan State ranks second in the Big Ten and 14th in the FBS in sacks with 3.20 per game.

• The Spartans are allowing 115.2 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.

• MSU ranks 40th in the FBS in scoring defense (22.5 ppg). The Spartans have allowed 24 TDs, tied for 18th fewest in the nation.

• Michigan State ranks seventh in the Big Ten and 44th in the nation in turnover margin (+0.30). MSU has forced 16 turnovers (eight fumbles, eight interceptions), tied for 31st in the FBS, and has lost 13 (five fumble; eight interceptions; tied for 52nd). MSU has a +39-point advantage in points off turnovers this season (69-30).

DEFENSIVE LINE: SENIORS LEADING THE WAYS ON THE ENDS
• Michigan State returned both starting defensive ends in 2021 in sixth-year graduate Drew Beesley and fifth-year graduate Jacub Panasiuk.

• A second-team midseason All-American by The Athletic, Panasiuk has 40 career starts to his credit, most of any active Spartan, including all 10 games this season. He has played in 54 career games the past five seasons (2017-21), which is tied for the most in program history.

• Panasiuk ranks among the Big Ten leaders in sacks (tied for 10th with 5.5 for 37 yards) and tackles for loss (tied for 15th with 8.5 for 49 yards). According to Pro Football Focus, he leads the FBS with 63 QB pressures this season.

• Overall, he has 28 tackles, nine 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 14.5) and tackles for loss (16th with 29.5).

• 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 18 tackles, including 2.5 sacks, in six games of action in 2021.

• Sophomore Jeff Pietrowski, who earned his first career start in Week 2 vs. Youngstown State, has 26 tackles, including 5.5 sacks (38 yards) and 7.0 TFLs (44 yards). He has also recovered a fumble and forced a fumble this season.

• Michigan State has five players with starting experience along the interior of the defensive line, including redshirt juniors Jacob Slade and Dashaun Mallory, redshirt sophomores Maverick Hansen and Jalen Hunt, and redshirt freshman Simeon Barrow.

• Slade has 29 tackles, including two for losses and one sack; he had a career game against Nebraska with eight tackles. Barrow started the first nine games and has 28 tackles (2.5 TFLs). Hansen earned his first career start in the win over Maryland.

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 game due to injury). Crouch ranks second on the team and tied for 15th in the Big Ten with 72 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.

• Redshirt freshman Cal Haladay earned his first career start in Week 1 and has kept his starting role ever since. Haladay, who was named to the watch list for the Maxwell Football Club Shaun Alexander Freshman of the Year Award on Nov. 9, is third on the team with 71 tackles.

• Fifth-year senior Noah Harvey, who has 13 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.

Xavier Henderson Michigan State Safety, is a native of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, graduate of Pickerington Central (courtesy Michigan State Athletic Communications)

SECONDARY: HENDERSON LEADS TEAM WITH 82 TACKLES
• Senior safety Xavier Henderson, who was named a second-team midseason All-American by The Athletic, leads the team and ranks seventh in the Big Ten with 82 tackles. He also ranks first on the team and tied for ninth 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 30 consecutive games at safety heading into Saturday’s game vs. Ohio State.

• 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 10 games at his new position this year. Grose recorded his first career interception in the win at Miami and ranks fourth on the team with 65 tackles. He had a career-high 16 stops vs. Western Kentucky on Oct. 2. He also leads the team with six pass break-ups, tied for 12th in the Big Ten.

• At nickelback, Darius Snow (63 tackles, 4 TFLs, one interception, one fumble recovery) has started the past six games. Redshirt junior Michael Dowell (35 tackles, 5 PBUs) started the first four games for MSU.

• Senior transfer Ronald Williams (Alabama) has started eight of the first 10 games for the Spartans. He has 32 tackles, including two TFLs, six PBUs, one sack and one interception (vs. Miami).

• Junior transfer Chester Kimbrough (Florida) has started the last nine games at corner for the Spartans. Kimbrough recorded his first career interception in overtime in the win over Nebraska. He has 33 tackles on the season.

• Redshirt freshman Marqui Lowery has played in five games and has 15 tackles, including a career-high seven vs. Maryland on Nov. 13.

• 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.

SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES

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 is also closing in on becoming MSU’s all-time leading scorer. Swenson holds that record with 377 career points; Coghlin is currently second in school history with 371 points.

• Coghlin did not play at Purdue due to an injury and only kicked PATs (3-for-3) in the win over Maryland.

• Coghlin picked up All-Big Ten honors for the fourth time in his career in 2020 (2018, first team, media; 2017 and 2019-20, honorable mention) in addition to earning Academic All-Big Ten honors for the fourth 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. It marked Coghlin’s third game with multiple field goals in the last four contests and his 22nd career game with two or more field goals. The two field goals also extended his MSU career record with his 74th career upright split, as well as No. 1 for active FBS players. The 74 field goals now gives Coghlin sole possession of No. 2 on the Big Ten career field goals list (record: 78 by Penn State’s Kevin Kelly, 2005-08).

• 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 third in the FBS in punting (49.4 avg.). He’s also second in the conference with 20 punts of 50-plus yards, including six punts of 60-plus yards. Baringer is 10th in the league with 13 punts inside the 20. He was added to the Ray Guy Award Watch List on Oct. 22.

• Baringer boomed a season-long 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 career-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 MIDSEASON ALL-AMERICAN
• Redshirt junior Jayden Reed leads the team in kick returns (12 for 304 yards, 25.3 avg.) and punt returns (10 for 213 yards; 21.3 avg.). He was named a first-team midseason All-American as a returner by The Sporting News and also earned midseason All-America honors by CBS Sports (first team) and The Athletic (second team) as an all-purpose player. Reed is No. 13 in the FBS in all-purpose yards (138.8 ypg) and 14th in combined kick returns (517).

• 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 first among active players in the FBS.

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 719 victories (all-time record: 719-471-44, .601). Michigan State is celebrating its 125th season in 2021.

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 a record ninth time MSU has received the award and the second straight year after beating Michigan.

MICHIGAN STATE-MICHIGAN MOST-WATCHED GAME OF THE 2021 SEASON –
• The Michigan State-Michigan game on Oct. 30 on FOX averaged 9.289 million viewers, making it the most-watched game of the year in 2021 to date.

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 ON ESPN’S COLLEGE GAMEDAY –
• ESPN College GameDay Built by The Home Depot, celebrating its 35th season, will broadcast live in Columbus on Saturday prior to the Michigan State-Ohio State game.

• Overall, it marks the 16th time College GameDay will originate from the site of a Michigan State game. MSU has a 9-6 record in previous 15 appearances, including a five-game winning streak.

• Earlier this season, ESPN College GameDay broadcasted live in East Lansing before the Michigan State-Michigan game in Spartan Stadium on Oct. 30. With nine campus appearances by College GameDay, Michigan State is tied for 10th most among FBS programs.

COURTESY MICHIGAN STATE ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS

RELATED ARTICLES
NFL Week 12 Preview
2 days ago
NFL Week 9 Preview
3 weeks ago
Cincinnati Reds News
3 weeks ago
NFL Week 7 Preview
1 month ago
NFL News Week 5
2 months ago
NFL Week 4 Preview
2 months ago
NFL Week 3 Preview
2 months ago