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Entering the game in a Spartan deficit, Payton Thorne reflects on his fathers message to 'keep fighting'

December 5, 2020
MSU's quarterback Payton Thorne, from Naperville, IL, looks downfield in a game against OSU on Dec. 5, 2020.
MSU's quarterback Payton Thorne, from Naperville, IL, looks downfield in a game against OSU on Dec. 5, 2020. —
Photo by Alyte Katilius | The State News

The game was well in hand as Ohio State batted away Rocky Lombardi’s pass in his own endzone for an interception to put the Buckeyes up 28-0 at the end of the first.

MSU's team looked deflated and out of the game at this point. 

As Lombardi fell with an injury, eyes were on redshirt freshman Payton Thorne. Instead of throwing in the towel and riding out the onslaught that continued to ensue in the 52-12 loss, Thorne threw on his helmet and went to work because that’s what his father told him to do.

“I think no matter what the score is, you have to keep fighting,” Thorne said. “My dad has told me over the past years just to fight one more round, kind of a boxing analogy, and that stuck with me. It doesn’t matter how bad you’re getting beat in the face.”

On Thorne’s first drive, he moved the Michigan State offense into Ohio State territory for the first time all game. It didn’t amount to much though as Thorne would be stripped to end the first half.

Thorne wasn’t fazed.

Thorne would go on to complete 11 consecutive passes, including a 55 yard strike to his former high school teammate Jayden Reed to set them up inside the Ohio State 20. Thorne would finish the drive with a read option carry on the following play to cut the lead to 35-7.

“It felt good,” Thorne said. “I thought it was a good play call and I knew they were going to be in man (coverage) and I guess that Tyler (Hunt) was open too, they both ran really good routes. He did a good job selling it, and got his eyes around and made a good catch and run.”

On the next drive the Spartan defense forced a fumble, and it looked like Michigan State could make something out of the game.

Thorne’s day couldn’t be perfect though as his ball missed the outstretched hands of Jalen Nailor as Shaun Wade hauled in an interception to squash any hopes of a comeback in East Lansing.

Still, Thorne continued to fight.


Just inside Ohio State territory once again, Thorne scrambled outside the pocket and turned up the field. Thorne put a couple defenders on skates on his way to a 30 yard run to set up a Spartan field goal.

Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker was pleased with Thorne’s play, but wants to see improvement going forward as Thorne’s end to the game was shaky. Thorne finished with five completions on 16 attempts after starting 11 of 11.

“Payton did some good things, we were obviously able to move the ball and sustain drives consistently,” Tucker said. ‘But we were only able to move the ball in spurts, we need to build on those things that we did well just like every week. Spurts is not going to get it.”

Thorne was able to get some snaps in the game against Indiana about three weeks ago and that’s something that he felt like made him more comfortable as the game went on.

“I definitely think that time helped coming into today,” Thorne said. “Getting out there and getting some of those snaps under your belt and feeling the speed of the game, the tempo of the game and that kind of stuff I definitely helped prepare me for today.”

With Lombardi being “banged up” according to Tucker, it appears that Thorne, after this performance, will have the starting job. For him, he just wants to move on from this loss and keep working to get better.

“I’m going to keep showing up and doing what I do and playing how I play,” Thorne said. “I’m going to keep competing, that’s all I know what to do and that’s all I can do moving forward and keep challenging my teammates to do the same.”

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Thorne wants to compete at this level and get ready for the next opponent, Penn State. Even if that means getting his homework done the night after the game so he can prepare all week for the Nittany Lions.

“Playing this game is a seven days a week thing,” Thorne said. “Growing up a coach's kid, I know that for sure. During the week, I hardly even saw my dad. Here at the highest level, you don’t have time to take 24 hours, you gotta watch that film tonight for today's game.”

“I’m going to try and get my homework out of the way for this next week and make sure it’s done by the end of tomorrow night or hopefully even tonight would be great, then get started on Penn State.”


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