College Football

Walker, Spartans Run Past Hurricanes

Miami Michigan State
Michigan State linebacker Quavaris Crouch (6) celebrates after recovering a fumble during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Miami, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Michael Reaves)

After a back and forth for the first three quarters, the Michigan State Spartans were able to pull away from the Miami Hurricanes thanks to some turnovers, winning 38-17.

After a slow start to the game for both teams’ offenses, each team had its share of big plays. But it was the Spartans who took control in the fourth quarter to pull away.

Running back Kenneth Walker III was the story of the game for Michigan State, rushing for 172 yards on 27 carries. He also caught three passes for 17 yards and the first Sparty touchdown of the game.

With the dominance of Walker, quarterback Payton Thorne was able to make big plays late. He finished with 261 yards and four touchdown passes on 18-of-31 attempts. Jalen Nailor was a key target in the game, catching four passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns.

Michigan State’s offense played pretty well, but that may have been thanks to a Miami defense that couldn’t tackle. The Hurricanes missed 30 tackles in the game and have graded out as the worst tackling team in the country through three games according to Pro Football Focus.

The problem with the game for Miami is that their defense wasn’t the problem for most of the game. Entering the fourth quarter, they had given up just 17 points. The offense, on the other hand, had struggled to score with just seven points.

Hurricanes Experience Same Issues

Quarterback D’Eriq King was once again basically on his own trying to win the game. Even with injuries, King was giving his team chances but often found himself running for his life and having passes dropped. He finished with 388 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions, and two fumbles on 38-of-59 passing. Oklahoma transfer receiver Charleston Rambo was unstoppable with 156 yards and two scores on 12 catches.

Maybe the most important play to look back on came in the second quarter. On second and goal from the 11-yard line, King put a pass between multiple defenders and right to the chest of tight end Will Mallory. The ball went right through his hands and the Hurricanes eventually had to settle for a field goal. Freshman Andres Borregales missed the attempt, so the game stayed at a 7-3 lead.

If Mallory catches that pass, Miami would find themselves up 14-3 with about six minutes left in the half and the momentum. Instead, the Spartans drove down the field and scored a touchdown to take a 10-7 lead.

Late in the fourth quarter, it did feel like the momentum started to swing back to the Hurricanes’ favor though. After a 10-play, 75-yard drive, Miami forced a punt. Down 17-14, they picked up the first down, and then a Michigan State penalty put them up to the 32. But Drew Beesley got past left tackle Zion Nelson with ease, hitting King and forcing a fumble.

The fumble, recovered by the Spartans, led to Thorne finding Jayden Reed for a 10-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 10. Though the Hurricanes would follow it up with a field goal, a tired defense just didn’t have anything left and would give up two more touchdowns.

The terrible tackling, dropped passes, and poor blocking has been a huge problem through three games for the Hurricanes. They get Central Connecticut this week, likely giving them an easy game before they open up conference play.

Michigan State, on the other hand, has been a stereotypical Big Ten team. With a strong rushing attack, a good play-action game, and solid defense, they look pretty good. At 3-0, they get back into conference play and have a run of extremely winnable games if they continue to play like they have.

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