Multiple new faces made their presence known on the field to help Michigan State Football defeat Central Michigan in their season opener 31-7 on Friday night.
MSU’s defense was resilient throughout the game, recording three sacks and an interception against Central. More importantly, the Spartans held CMU redshirt freshman quarterback Bert Emmanuel Jr. to just 87 passing yards.
Michigan State has a rather young secondary, especially at the safety position. Seeing results this quickly is promising and Secondary coach Harlon Barnett expressed his satisfaction with his group’s play at weekly press conferences on Tuesday.
“I thought they did a really good job,” Barnett said. “What we expected them to do, they played fast, physical and aggressive and I was really proud of those guys.”
Another noticeable improvement on the defensive end has been finishing tackles. Barnett added that he has highlighted running through contact to bring the man down on a pursuit. When he started to see his defense execute it in that way, it fired him up.
On the offensive side of the ball, there has been no shortage of opportunities either. Nine different receivers caught a pass on Friday night, meaning the ball was spread evenly all over the field.
A new starting quarterback also took the field in the opener—redshirt junior quarterback Noah Kim. Kim posted 279 yards and 2 touchdowns to go along with a 58% completion percentage in the win.
Despite the shuffling of the roster, Kim found himself comfortable distributing the ball to whoever managed to be open.
“It definitely stresses the defense a lot more when you see different guys making plays,” Kim said. “That’s something that we hope to continue to do because all of our guys can make plays.”
Targeting multiple receivers throughout the game helps to open up gaps downfield for big yardage gains as the defense continues to try to adjust. Redshirt junior wide receiver Christian Fitzpatrick benefited from Central’s defense struggling to adapt to Kim and the team's offense’s strategy. Fitzpatrick finished the game with two catches for 70 yards, including a 72-yard gain to set up a later touchdown.
Most importantly, relationships have seemed to be built throughout the roster. Having many new players on the field requires communication from different leaders and having each other’s backs. Fitzpatrick shared some of his own praise for Kim at the podium—a good sign for the chemistry between the position groups thus far.
“He did a good job going from like whatever read he had, left to right or high to low,” Fitzpatrick said. “He does a good job with his eyes and he really like showed it that game for sure.”