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Ben Patton's two field goal performance creates new opportunities for Spartan offense

November 12, 2022
<p>Spartan kicker #93 Ben Patton kicks for a field goal during the game on Nov. 12, 2022.</p>

Spartan kicker #93 Ben Patton kicks for a field goal during the game on Nov. 12, 2022.

Special teams showed up in a big way in Michigan State football’s 27-21 win over Rutgers on Saturday. In fact, six of the points came from field goals, a scoring method the Spartans have not heavily relied on this season.

Coming into Saturday’s game, the team had only made two field goals in the season, one against Illinois and one against Maryland. In preparation for their matchup with the Scarlet Knights, Head Coach Mel Tucker and the Spartans decided to change the way they practiced kicking.

“The week has been exciting with that actually, so at the end of every practice we’ll bring everybody up to run around and distract the kickers,” redshirt senior wide receiver Jayden Reed said. “We just started it this week. We just started putting the distractions on the kickers and they lived up to it.”

Junior kicker Ben Patton certainly lived up to it. He nailed two field goals, one from 34 yards and one from 48 yards to keep the door shut on Rutgers as they continued to fight their way back toward the end of the game.

“Since the whole team has been all eyes on our kicker, for the past seven days Ben (Patton) hasn’t missed once,” redshirt junior quarterback Payton Thorne said. “Maybe that’s what it takes, but it’s huge. We won by six points and that’s two field goals. It’s great to see.”

Patton seemingly appreciated the challenge at practice, saying the crowd noise especially helped when he was kicking the 48-yard attempt.

“I really like having the guys in my ear,” Patton said. “It helps you drown out the noises in your own head, you know just having that white noise around you of a large crowd. For me, it’s more therapeutic than if I just had Coach Tucker in my ear saying some stuff. It’s a lot better to have the entire crowd there.”

With the tougher practices for the special teams unit this past week, it appears Tucker is putting an emphasis on the importance of having a strong kicking game as a viable scoring option.

“All of our guys know how important the kicking game is,” Tucker said. “On the sideline you could hear the guys really excited, celebrating when we made those field goals because we’ve had a tough time with that all year. ... We had confidence he would make them as well.”

In addition to MSU’s special teams unit performing well, the Spartans also made sure that the Rutgers special teams unit would not have the same success. 

Redshirt senior defensive tackle Jacob Slade blocked a 39-yard field goal attempt from the Rutgers kicker that would have cut MSU’s lead to four. 

Instead, he swatted the ball with his hand – thankfully hitting his good hand and not the hand in which he had dealt with a thumb injury last season Slade said – knocking it in just the perfect spot to be recovered by sixth-year cornerback Ameer Speed.

“It just emphasizes the importance of special teams,” Patton said. “A lot of people harp on the main four of kickoff, kick return, punt and punt return, but field goals are just as important and so is field goal blocking, just being able to see Jacob (Slade) go out there and block that obviously changed a lot of momentum for the game.”

Offensively the Spartans seem to be finding their groove. Over the last two games, they've shown improved statistics in the pass, run and kicking game. As the season winds down it will be important for Tucker and the Spartans to find new ways to score, especially as they continue to play for bowl eligibility.

MSU will host the Indiana Hoosiers next Saturday before ending the regular season on the road against the Penn State Nittany Lions. The Spartans will need to win one of these upcoming matchups in order to qualify for a bowl game.

In order to do this, it's important to be versatile and find different ways to score, whether it comes from the rushing offense, the passing offense or the field goal team.

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