MSU football has shown to have a knack for finding talented running backs in the transfer portal. After finding Kenneth Walker III last season, Head Coach Mel Tucker went back to the portal to find Jarek Broussard and Jalen Berger.
Berger, a redshirt sophomore from Wisconsin, and Broussard, a fifth-year from Colorado combined for five of MSU’s seven touchdowns in Michigan State's 52-0 stomping of Akron. The two rotated during drives, splitting the workload and propelling the offense as it struggled to get the passing game going.
"I think they both bring great things to the table,” redshirt junior quarterback Payton Thorne said. “They’re both good pass catchers and they’ve done a great job so far in these first two games of being explosive and getting us in good situations to run the ball.”
Having two running backs to split the work instead of one like last season has been different for the MSU offense, but it has allowed them to adjust on the fly and have more options.
“We can run them out there and exchange if one guy gets tired or one guy gets a little bit of a tweak here and there, you run the next one out,” Thorne said.
That appeared to be the strategy Saturday against the Zips. The duo rotated back and forth on who plowed down the field and who took the ball to the endzone. On the first scoring play of the game, Berger quickly carried the ball down the field in three straight carries before Broussard took over at the goal line to finish off the drive.
Then on the next scoring drive, Broussard did much of the heavy lifting when it came to the run game and Berger was brought in to do the finishing touches.
Broussard felt that the two complimented each other well on the field and that having the two of them split the drives as they did, helped with the momentum that led to scoring plays.
“Just the idea of keeping your legs fresh and having somebody that’s gonna encourage you to make a play, he might make a play, just kind of feeding off each other,” Broussard said.
Tucker was also impressed by what he saw from his guys.
“From those guys I see hitting the holes and velocity and being physical and falling forward on contact,” Tucker said. “Those guys are running hard.”
Indeed they did. Berger finished the game with 107 rushing yards and three touchdowns, and Broussard finished with 81 yards and two touchdowns. The two of them together accounted for 72% of the team’s rushing yards and proved to be reliable offensive assets who can step up to the plate and push the intensity level when it matters.
The running game stepped up in game two, while the passing game is still struggling to develop consistency. Tucker has emphasized that the team needs to be consistent, and both sides of the ball will need to be more in sync if the Spartans hope to pass their first road test against Washington next Saturday.
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