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Michigan State's hard-hitting, opportunistic defense holds Akron to Zip

September 12, 2022
<p>Senior cornerback Kendell Brooks, 33, tackles TJ Banks, 5, for a turnover during Michigan State’s game against Akron on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022 at Spartan Stadium. </p>

Senior cornerback Kendell Brooks, 33, tackles TJ Banks, 5, for a turnover during Michigan State’s game against Akron on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022 at Spartan Stadium.

Photo by Chloe Trofatter | The State News

Michigan State sent the Akron Zips back to Ohio with more than a few bruises. On the way to a 52-0 shutout victory, the Spartans battered the visitors with massive hits from the secondary, the front seven and even special teams. 

“All week, we talked about leaving the game with a goose egg,” senior safety Kendell Brooks said after the game. “Going into next week, it provides a sense of confidence and helps us with our camaraderie to achieve that.”

All those hits and complimentary defense from the Spartans forced Akron to fumble four times, effectively destroying any momentum the Zips managed to build. 

Brooks steps up

Last week, Michigan State lost a key leader of the secondary against Western Michigan in fifth-year senior safety Xavier Henderson. In his absence, junior Angelo Grose and senior Kendell Brooks played a majority of the snaps at safety Saturday evening. 

The duo performed admirably in the more featured roles, each finishing with seven tackles a piece on the night.

Brooks' performance was especially impressive, and his impact was felt almost immediately. Just a few minutes into the first quarter, Akron was driving down the field. The Zips quarterback, DJ Irons, was moving the ball with efficiency -- a worrying trend, considering the struggles of the secondary last season. However, Brooks laid out a massive hit on an Akron receiver, forcing a fumble. Redshirt sophomore Cal Haladay scooped up the loose ball and the Spartans scored on the ensuing drive. 

“We have confidence in him [Brooks] to go in the game and get the job done and make plays -- be physical, knock the ball off of people, play fast,” Head Coach Mel Tucker said. “I’m proud of him being able to go in and get the job done.”

One year ago, Brooks played a vast majority of his snaps on special teams. A year before that, he was playing Division II ball at North Greenville. In his senior year, Brooks is finally getting his shot at a prominent role with the defense. His debut did not disappoint.

“I’ve played college football before. I started every game on my last crew, so it was kind of just go in and execute my assignments,” Brooks said. “I prepared, and everything else just took care of itself.”

With Henderson’s injury status unclear, Brooks will likely roam the secondary for the foreseeable future and appears to be a competent replacement.

Windmon continues to dominate

It was always going to be hard for senior Jacoby Windmon to follow up his first game in the green and white -- a four sack night that landed the UNLV transfer a handful of national awards. 

However, the linebacker-turned-defensive end followed up his monster debut with another record breaking performance. Windom forced three fumbles against Akron Saturday evening, tying Joe Bachie’s 2018 record against Maryland. 

“The objective is to get the ball back to the offense, and I feel like that’s what we did,” Windmon said. “Just taking the ball away, that’s something we focus on in practice, and we showed it in the game.”

Michigan State’s defense swarmed all afternoon, constantly aiming to take the ball through hits and strips. Windmon highlighted that defensive performance with his constant motor and drive, forcing his way into plays across the field. In addition to his three forced fumbles, Windmon had one and a half sacks, two and a half TFLs, a pass breakup and five total tackles. In short, there was rarely a defensive series that was not somehow affected by Windmon. 

As Michigan State continues to improve upon last year’s lackluster defensive showing, Windmon will be essential in the learning process. Just a few games into the season, it seems as though where Windmon goes, the defense follows. 

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