Michigan State football’s loss to Washington last Saturday revealed what the team is capable of this season as well as what could hold them back. The defense, more specifically the secondary, still needs some work before it’s ready for conference play and the running game all but disappeared against the Huskies.
The passing game on the other hand was the strongest it’s been all season.
After a slow start, redshirt junior quarterback Payton Thorne threw for 323 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. In addition to improving statistically, he appeared to have more confidence and got rid of the overthrows and provided the team with some much needed consistency.
“He was more efficient,” head coach Mel Tucker said. “He threw some really nice balls. He was hyper-competitive, which you can see, so he improved.”
With redshirt senior wide receiver Jayden Reed out with injury, some new faces proved themselves to be reliable targets for Thorne. Sophomore wide receiver Keon Coleman led the team with 116 receiving yards and two touchdowns, with fifth year tight end Daniel Barker right behind with 69 receiving yards.
It’s no shocker that Barker and Thorne have quickly formed a connection on the field. In fact, Barker cites Thorne as one of the biggest factors of why the graduate transfer from Illinois chose to come to Michigan State.
He first took real notice of Thorne during the Peach Bowl when Barker watched MSU defeat Pitt.
“The first time watching him I seen something in Payton that nobody in the world kind of sees, like a big X-factor in Payton,” Barker said. “Since day one, we live together and we die together. I love Payton.”
The love and respect between the two players appears to be mutual, as Thorne has nothing but praise for his teammate.
“He's an asset that we can use and he's a really good player so we'll be looking to build on that moving forward,” Thorne said.
With Reed’s status still uncertain, the team will likely put their faith in Barker and Coleman as Big Ten play begins against Minnesota on Saturday.
“If you look at DJ (Daniel) Barker and Keon Coleman and some of those guys step up and do what they did, that was very, very good to see and I think that's really good things as we build to move towards the future,” offensive coordinator Jay Johnson said.
Although the Spartans were able to rely on the passing game against Washington, they might have to change their game plan against Minnesota, whose pass defense is currently ranked fourth in the country. The Gophers are also ranked ninth in rushing defense and first in third down conversion percentage on defense. They’ve allowed opposing offenses to convert on third down just 11.8% of the time.
Thorne spoke about just how important it will be for MSU to come up big in these situations.
“Third down is situational football and we talk all the time about how important situational football is and, you know, third down is one of if not the most important part of the game and so good offenses convert on third down,” he said.
MSU is ranked 43rd in the nation in third down conversion percentage and converts on third down about 46% of the time. The Gophers lead the nation in this statistic and convert on third down about 78% of the time.
Although Minnesota is ranked in the top-10 when it comes to these key stats, they have yet to play a ranked opponent or a conference opponent. Just as Michigan State went to Seattle for its first test of the season, the Gophers will be coming to East Lansing on Saturday with something to prove.
Support student media!
Please consider donating to The State News and help fund the future of journalism.
Share and discuss “Michigan State offense looks to carry positive momentum in Big Ten play” on social media.