Michigan State Football’s inaugural triumph of Richmond Saturday afternoon was a game of many firsts.
Sixth year senior tight end Tyneil Hopper recorded his first ever catch in a Spartan uniform after transferring from Boise State in the offseason. His reception also happened to be his first touchdown at MSU as well.
“I was ready for the moment,” Hopper said. “I appreciate my guys for, you know, standing there and blocking for me like that, and Noah (Kim) putting it on the money."
Hopper’s catch put the Spartans up 14-0 in the beginning of the second quarter, which allowed the offense to settle in and start to take command as the game went on.
A big part of the success that Michigan State had on offense came from redshirt junior quarterback Noah Kim. Efficiency helped Kim remain poised throughout the game, as he finished with 292 yards and two touchdown passes to go along with a 82% completion percentage in the 45-14 win.
When Kim saw Hopper slip through his block to get open, he knew he could trust his receiver to go and make a play.
“It was just something that, you know, we had drawn up, and we thought Tyneil could win—even if they covered him,” Kim said. “So if we can just get him one on one with the linebacker and hopefully get the safety’s eyes looking in the backfield, and you know, see how they best they can play it, or what Coach Tuck says, do his job.”
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Antonio Gates Jr. also caught his first career reception-a 45 yard crossing route, which also resulted in his first touchdown as well.
“That one to Gates was just something that we saw earlier,” Kim said. “We tried to get it to him earlier in the game, but because of what the defense did, we weren’t able to and threw it to Tre (Mosely) on that. But we came back to it. We liked what we saw, and Gates, you know, he’ll make the catches.”
The Spartans look to keep their tight ends involved whether they are catching passes or laying down blocks. In Hopper’s case, his initial block on his touchdown catch was enough to fool the defense, to where he floated over the middle of the field, where Kim found him in the endzone.
Head Coach Mel Tucker knows how tough the position is to master, and he had great praise for Hopper, or even better known in the locker room as “Hop-daddy.”
“Hop-daddy, he’s a good player,” Tucker said. “He does a good job blocking. He’s got soft hands, and that’s why he’s here. We wanted to add to our tight end room so that he had an opportunity and he did his job.”