Tuesday, October 4, 2022

FINAL: Defensive woes doom Michigan State in 39-28 loss to Washington

September 18, 2022
MSU football Head Coach Mel Tucker yells at the referee during a game against Akron at the Spartan Stadium on Sept. 10, 2022. The Spartans beat the Zips with a score 52 to 0.
MSU football Head Coach Mel Tucker yells at the referee during a game against Akron at the Spartan Stadium on Sept. 10, 2022. The Spartans beat the Zips with a score 52 to 0. —
Photo by Audrey Richardson | The State News

Despite a gutsy performance from redshirt junior quarterback Payton Thorne, a terrible showing from Michigan State's defense ultimately doomed the Spartans in a 39-28 loss in Seattle.

The Spartan's secondary was especially atrocious, giving up 397 yards and four touchdowns in the game. Washington’s first punt of the night came in the final minute of the third quarter. 

Thorne was one of the few bright spots for Michigan State, except for an interception in the fourth quarter. He finished with 323 passing yards and three touchdowns, completing 30 of 42 attempts. Missing redshirt senior wide receiver Jayden Reed, Thorne leaned heavily on sophomore Keon Coleman throughout the night. Coleman finished with nine catches for 116 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

MSU’s rushing attack, which looked promising through two games, fell apart completely against the Huskies. Redshirt sophomore Jalen Berger and fifth-year senior Jarek Broussard combined for just 30 yards on the ground.

The first quarter was an unmitigated disaster for Michigan State and set the tone for the rest of the night. 

Michael Penix Jr. led the Huskies on a seven play, 77-yard touchdown drive on the opening series. After forcing MSU’s offense off the field, Washington’s offense went right back to work. Penix continued to pick apart the Spartan secondary, marching down to the goal line. However, Michigan State’s defense finally showed up, halting four straight plays to force a turnover on downs. 

The Spartans immediately shattered on any sort of momentum on the ensuing play. Washington’s defense stopped Broussard when he tripped before crossing the plane of the goal line, earning a safety and taking a 9-0 lead. 

Penix went right back to work in the second quarter with excellent field position, leading another bruising drive that ended with a touchdown. 

Michigan State finally put together a scoring drive in the closing minutes of the first half. Offensive coordinator Jay Johnson started to put some faith into his quarterback, and Coleman capped off the first competent MSU drive of the night with a seven-yard touchdown reception. Coleman also caught the two-point conversion attempt to make it 22-8. 

With less than two minutes on the clock, Penix put together one more stunning series to end the second quarter. In just eight plays, the Huskies marched 65 yards to cap off the first half with yet another Penix dime. MSU went to the locker room trailing 29-8. 

Thorne and the MSU offense came out swinging to start the second. On fourth-and-six, junior wide receiver Tre Mosley saved the drive with a 26-yard touchdown reception in double coverage. 

Naturally, Penix answered the MSU scoring drive with an impressive touchdown of his own. Penix found a wide-open Ja’Lynn Polk for a 53-yard touchdown, extending the lead to 36-14. 

Michigan State’s defense showed some signs of life with a goal line stand near the beginning of the fourth quarter. However, on the very next play, Thorne blemished his hitherto solid performance with an interception. The turnover gave the Huskies prime field position, which they cashed in on with a field goal. 

Despite the lopsided score, Michigan State refused to go down without a fight. 

Redshirt senior Elijah Collins was the first running back of the night to find the endzone for Michigan State. After a few catches from fifth-year senior Daniel Barker, Collins punched it in at the goal line to make it 39-20. 

Thorne continued to impress in the following drive, moving quickly down the field to keep the game within reach. Coleman notched his second touchdown catch of the night with 5:17 left in the fourth quarter, adding a two-point conversation after the fact to slice Washington's lead down to 11.

MSU's defense stiffened their resolve on the following series, forcing a three and out to give Michigan State a fighting chance in the final minutes. However, an incompletion from Thorne on fourth down finally iced the game for the Huskies.

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