Trailing No. 12 Ohio State 10-6 in the third quarter, junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell addressed his teammates as they prepared to get the ball back.
“I said, ‘Who’s going to be the first one to make a play? Who’s it going to be?’” Maxwell recalled. “And they all looked in my eyes, and they were up to the challenge. And it happened to be Keith (Mumphery).”
In three quick plays, Maxwell marched the offense down the field to score MSU’s only touchdown of the day, culminating in a 29-yard touchdown reception by sophomore wide receiver Mumphery.
On the play, Mumphery motioned from the left to the right before taking a hard step and running a screen route toward the left side.
Maxwell hit him in stride just past the line of scrimmage and with a burst of speed, Mumphery took off down the field.
After squeezing through a swarm of Ohio State defenders, Mumphery bounced off a couple more, spinning away from another before battling through a cluster of four defenders for his first career touchdown and giving the Spartans a brief 13-10 lead.
“And as soon as I caught it, I turned upfield and I was like, ‘They must not want to tackle me,’ so I kept moving,” he said.
Mumphery added scoring his first collegiate touchdown against a Big Ten opponent was like a dream come true, although he hadn’t pictured it coming after breaking so many tackles.
The Vienna, Ga., native finished with five receptions for a career-high 79 yards and the score.
Although the Spartans eventually fell 17-16, Mumphery’s performance stood out as a highlight in a game in which the Spartans saw a marked improvement from their wide receiving corps.
“I thought we made a big step as a receiver team this week,” junior wideout Bennie Fowler said. “We didn’t get the win, but we made some strides, made some improvement.”
Still, most of the focus was on Mumphery’s highlight touchdown.
Offensive coordinator Dan Roushar was impressed with Mumphery’s refusal to go down and his ability to fight for extra yards.
“I thought it was a tremendous finish to the run; he wasn’t going to be denied,” Roushar said.
Meanwhile, Mumphery wouldn’t say if his breakout performance put him at the number one receiver spot; he conceded that each player at the position is capable of making those plays.
Despite Mumphery running for 27 of the 29 yards after the catch, he gave credit to Maxwell for motivating him on the play.
“Any time Maxwell says something, it inspires me because he’s the big guy; he’s the quarterback, and he leads the offense,” Mumphery said. “Everything he says I listen to, and I trust him. When you’re on the team, you’ve got to trust the guy next to you and what he’s saying; you’ve got to believe in him — and I believe in him.”