In middle school, a young Payton Thorne and a young Jayden Reed took the field for the first time together. Thorne’s father, Jeff, who is currently the head coach of the 2019 Division III champion North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, only needed to see Reed play once to deem him as one of the best players he had ever seen at that age.
That was when the deeply rooted connection between redshirt junior wide receiver Jayden Reed and redshirt sophomore quarterback Payton Thorne began. High school teammates at Naperville Central High School, Thorne said he began dreaming of making big-time plays with Reed at the next level as a sophomore in high school.
Graduating high school a year apart, Thorne and Reed were finally able to make that dream come true last year in a game against Ohio State. Coming in off the bench replacing redshirt junior Rocky Lombardi, Thorne and Reed connected on a 55-yard pass, just like old times.
Saturday, it was the Reed and Thorne show that took over Spartan Stadium in a 42-14 win over Youngstown State.
On the very first play from scrimmage, Michigan State scored a 75-yard touchdown, for the second week in a row, this time through the air via the flea-flicker instead of the ground, as Throne found his old teammate for six quick points.
Coming out aggressively on both sides of the ball was part of the plan again for Michigan State. Thorne said after the game they had been working on that very play since the middle of the week. It is one thing to call an aggressive play, but to be able to execute it how it was planned is even more rewarding.
“Honestly, I wish we could score every play on the first play,” Reed said. “We did it last week, this week. That’s the standard so we want to make that the goal for next week as well. Coach [Jay] Johnson is doing great play calling so, as a team, we're just going to trust them and follow behind him.”
Reed had only one other target from Thorne in the first half, but, yet again, it was another bomb, this time for an 85-yard touchdown.
Reed went on to finish the day with four catches, 181 yards and two touchdowns. Thorne was outstanding too, completing 15 of 21 passes for 280 yards and four passing touchdowns, on top of a rushing touchdown in the first quarter. It was all part of an offensive blitzkrieg from the Spartans, who finished the day with 595 total yards, the most since 2019 against Western Michigan.
With 80 points total in the last two games, the Michigan State offense has loads of confidence, for the first time in a while. The Spartans have lacked explosiveness over the last few years, but it appears, after two games, this team is different and playing with more swagger.
“I would say your confidence comes from your preparation,” Thorne said. “The way that we prepared these past two weeks has put us in a good position to go out and play well, and that's gonna be our goal every week, is to be as prepared as we can possibly be moving into the game. Like he [Reed] said earlier, we trust Coach Johnson and our coaching staff to put us in a good situation on Saturdays.”
The Spartans will carry on this offensive confidence next weekend, as they head down to a hostile environment to take on the Miami Hurricanes. It will be the team’s toughest test yet and they will continue to need highlight plays from both Thorne and Reed.
“We've had a ton of those plays,” Thorne said. “Those aren't gonna be the last two so we're just gonna keep building."
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