Friday, September 30, 2022

Preview: MSU heads to Washington for first major test of 2022 season

September 16, 2022
Sparty fires up the crowd at game against Western Michigan at Spartan Stadium on Sept. 2, 2022. The Spartans beat the Broncos with a score of 35-13.
Sparty fires up the crowd at game against Western Michigan at Spartan Stadium on Sept. 2, 2022. The Spartans beat the Broncos with a score of 35-13. —
Photo by Audrey Richardson | The State News

Michigan State football travels to Seattle this Saturday for its first road matchup of the season against the Washington Huskies. This will be the first real test for the Spartans, who are 2-0 after taking down Western Michigan and Akron in matchups they were heavily favored in.

Saturday’s matchup will pose a different kind of challenge for Head Coach Mel Tucker and the Spartans. They will be playing in the Pacific Time Zone, which is three hours behind East Lansing and approximately a five hour plane ride away. 

Because of the length of travel and off the field preparation as well as the scheduling, the matchup is somewhat comparable to the Miami game last season. They’ll be traveling to an unfamiliar part of the country and will have to adjust their bodies to circumstances outside of their control.

The Miami win last season was a major point of the season where the team proved that it had made leaps and bounds from seasons prior. Saturday’s game could prove the same. 

Here’s a look at the MSU offense and defense and the matchups with Washington they will encounter as they head out west.

Offense

It’s no secret redshirt junior Payton Thorne isn’t happy with how he played through the first two games of the season. After a shaky start against Western Michigan, the veteran quarterback completed 64% of his passes for 212 yards against Akron, but failed to find the endzone and threw two interceptions. He’ll be looking to get back on track Saturday against a very strong Washington defense.

Not only that, it’s unclear if redshirt senior wide receiver Jayden Reed, who is undoubtedly Thorne’s favorite on field target, will return to play this Saturday. Reed collided with a sideline bench against Akron and appeared shaken up as he walked off the field. He did not return to the field.

Tucker did not confirm whether or not Reed will be ready to go Saturday. If he’s unable to play, the Spartans will need to see some breakout games from young receivers such as sophomore Keon Coleman and freshman Germie Bernard. Redshirt junior Tre Mosley would also be relied on a bit more.

The Huskies are ranked No. 7 in the country when it comes to passing yards allowed per game (121.5), albeit against two weak opponents. This may force the Spartans to rely on the running game, just as they did against Akron. 

Sophomore Jalen Berger and fifth-year Jarek Broussard stepped up against Akron with a combined five touchdowns and 188 rushing yards. The duo proved they can work well together alternating on drives and executing at different times to get the job done.

Defense

Saturday’s matchup should answer a lot of questions about MSU’s defense. More specifically, the secondary’s improvement has been at the top of everyone’s minds. Although the defense played well in the first two games, both Akron and Western Michigan were able to pass the ball relatively easily when they weren’t turning the ball over.

Michigan State is currently ranked No. 51 in the NCAA in passing yards allowed per game with 198. They’ll have their hands full with Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who averages 10.33 yards per pass attempt (No. 10 overall in the NCAA). He’ll present the biggest challenge the Spartans have seen thus far. It should become clear early in the game if the secondary has made the necessary improvement to get to the next level.

While the secondary still has some unanswered questions, MSU’s defensive line is off to a hot start. Senior linebacker turned defensive end Jacoby Windmon forced three fumbles, earning himself Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors for the second week in a row.

The secondary and defensive line will have to work together as one unit if they hope to take the next step against Washington and meet their season goals.

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