Kenneth Walker III told Payton Thorne that Jayden Reed was taking the opening punt for a touchdown on the sidelines after Michigan State’s defense got the stop on 3rd down to force a three and out.
“When it was 4th down before they even kicked it, I was over there and I called it,” Walker said with a grin. “I was like 'he's gonna take this one to the crib.'”
Reed lived up to Walker’s prediction, taking the punt 88 yards for a touchdown to start the scoring tonight. It was his second consecutive punt return for a touchdown dating back to last week’s game-tying return against Nebraska, and the second time that he has scored on the first play of the game for the Spartans this season.
After a 61-yard bomb from Western Kentucky punter John Haggerty, Reed backed up to MSU’s 12-yard line to field the punt. He started the return left, going to the Western Kentucky sideline and made the first defender miss with a juke back toward the middle of the field. After the first guy was in the rearview mirror, Reed turned on the jets to race to the MSU sideline past the Hilltoppers’ punt coverage to score.
“I actually love when kickers like out-kick their coverage because that leaves a lot more space for me to make a move,” Reed said. “I saw one guy coming, he was running a little too fast, so I just stuck my foot in the ground and got around him and then found the lane and my unit made great blocks for me.”
90 seconds into the game, MSU led 7-0 thanks to Jayden Reed’s blazing speed.
The punt return was the start of a career game for Reed, who totaled 285 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns to help lead Michigan State to a 48-31 victory over Western Kentucky.
To Reed, this is nothing new.
“Last week we were up here so it kind of felt like deja vu again, like a repeat,” Reed said. “It was kind of cool returning for the first play instead of at the end of the game. It's pretty cool to get in early so it was good.”
The opening touchdown gave Michigan State an early cushion and they did not relinquish the lead again. Reed along with Walker and Thorne added five more touchdowns in the first half to give Michigan State a commanding 42-16 lead over the Hilltoppers.
The early offensive explosion was a welcome sight for the Spartan offense that managed to gain only 14 yards in the second half against Nebraska last Saturday. The early kickstart from Reed on the punt return was the catalyst.
“It's great when you look at the scoreboard and it’s 7-0 and you haven't been on the field yet,” Thorne said. “That's credit to our special teams unit who worked hard all this week ... like I said last week I've seen that a few times so that was fun and you know it was good blocking out there and it is big to be able to step on the field when you are already up.”
The outburst for Reed continued on MSU’s first offensive possession. Thorne found Reed on a deep post for 46 yards to move the ball deep into Western Kentucky territory before Walker punched it in for his first of three touchdowns in the first half.
The next drive out for MSU’s offense, it was none other than Reed again to do the damage for the Spartans. After MSU moved the ball into the Hilltoppers half, Thorne found Reed on an out route after Reed spun the cornerback around on his cut. Reed caught the ball facing the sideline and turned upfield, outrunning the Western Kentucky safety on the way to the endzone for a 46-yard touchdown.
10 minutes into the game, Reed had two touchdowns and set up another with 180 all-purpose yards.
“What you see is what you get,” Mel Tucker said following the game about Reed’s performance. “Because he does that in practice, he practices at a high level ... he's a difference-maker for us on special teams, on offense, he can do it all.”
The performance tonight was a culmination of the work that Reed has put in since he arrived in East Lansing he said. After transferring to MSU from Western Michigan and sitting out the entire 2019 season, Reed has found himself as the face of Michigan State football alongside Kenneth Walker III thanks to his consistently jaw-dropping performances.
“I got trust in God, I have patience, I trust the process, and I believe everything happened for a reason,” Reed said. “So, I had to wait my turn and that's what I did. And everything happened for a reason you know we waited our turn and we worked for it. It's not a coincidence. Success leaves clues and that's what I think is going on.”
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