Sunday, December 4, 2022

HALF: The flea-flicker strikes again, MSU leads Maryland, 27-14

November 13, 2021
MSU quarterback, Payton Thorne (10) photographed during a game against Indiana University on Nov. 14, 2020.
MSU quarterback, Payton Thorne (10) photographed during a game against Indiana University on Nov. 14, 2020. —
Photo by Alyte Katilius | The State News

Coming off its first loss of the season, Michigan State has come out hungry, leading Maryland 27-14. Here are some takeaways from the first half:

Spartans expose vulnerable Maryland secondary early

It's been a while since Michigan State has successfully pulled off the flea-flicker, but just like offensive coordinator Jay Johnson says, it is part of the playbook like any other play. On the third play of the game, MSU busted out the flea-flicker, and redshirt sophomore quarterback Payton Thorne received the lateral from junior running back Kenneth Walker III and launched a 52-yard touchdown to sophomore wide receiver Montorie Foster, his first touchdown of his career.

Even without redshirt junior wide receiver Jalen Nailor, Thorne has diced up the Maryland secondary all game. Thorne added his second touchdown midway through the first quarter when he floated a 29-yard pass down the right sideline for another touchdown to his high school buddy redshirt junior Jayden Reed. He then captured his third touchdown of the half on a short misdirection play to redshirt senior tight end Connor Heyward.

Thorne has completed 17 of 23 passes for 209 yards, three touchdowns and one interception on the last play of the half.

MSU is banged up, but still cruising

Last week, injuries started to pile up for Michigan State and they are paying a toll today too. Senior offensive tackle Jarrett Horst and Nailor both remain inactive after missing the Purdue game, but additional defensive players are out too. Three regular defensive starters such as junior linebacker Quavaris Crouch, freshman cornerback Charles Brantley, and redshirt freshman defensive tackle Simeon Barrow are all out today.

Redshirt senior linebacker Noah Harvey, senior cornerback Ronald Williams both joined the starting lineup, while the defensive tackle position has been a rotation between redshirt sophomore Maverick Hansen, redshirt junior Jacob Slade, redshirt junior Dashaun Mallory and redshirt sophomore Jalen Hunt. Barrow was ejected in the second half last week, meaning he would have had to miss the first half today anyway.

Graduate kicker Matt Coghlin returned to the team to kick MSU's first extra point after sitting out last week with an undisclosed injury, but then sat out until the second quarter. Freshman kicker Stephen Rusnak took over the kicking duties, missing an extra point in the first quarter, but then Coghlin returned to the game midway through the second quarter to convert MSU's third and fourth extra point attempt of the half.

Spartan defense figuring it out on third down

Getting the defense off the field was a major issue for Michigan State last week. Purdue converted 11 of 18 third downs, mostly attacking through the air.

Today, Michigan State has been stout defensively, including third down. The Terrapins have converted just three of seven third-down attempts, and have struggled to move the ball except for its one scoring drive. They have kept Maryland redshirt sophomore quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa in-check with 130 passing yards on a 52% completion rate.

However, MSU will need to sharpen it up against the run. Maryland's offense is not known for its running game, but they have two big gains on the ground, one by sophomore running back Peny Boone and one on a designed run by Tagovailoa. In total, the Terrapins have 99 rushing yards.

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