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MSU tailback Jarek Broussard: Rushing attack "will only get better" for Spartans

The Spartans have been road-graders through the first two weeks of 2022...

Coming into the 2022 season, Michigan State returned its starting quarterback, two of its three leading receivers and had two young up-and-coming outside weapons in Keon Coleman and Germie Bernard.

Combine that with the loss of star tailback Kenneth Walker III, and it appeared the passing attack would lead the way early in the year for the Spartan offense.

That hasn’t been the case.

Michigan State ran for 6.2 yards per carry on their way to 197 rushing yards in the season-opener against Western Michigan, and followed that up in Week 2 by churning out 260 yards and six touchdowns on the ground against Akron.

The running back tandem of Wisconsin transfer Jalen Berger and Colorado transfer Jarek Broussard has been everything the Spartans hoped it would be through the first two weeks, and the pair is motivating one another as well.

“I feel like we feed off each other. Like, if you see one guy break a run then that motivates you to break a run,” Berger said after Week 1.

Berger has eclipsed 100 rushing yards in back-to-back games, going for 107 yards and three touchdowns this week against Akron. He’s up to 227 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the season, and is averaging 6.9 yards per carry.

Broussard, meanwhile, ran for 81 yards and his first two rushing touchdowns of the year against the Zips, bringing his season total up to 135 rushing yards on 5.4 yards per carry.

“I feel like we complement each other really well running the ball,” Broussard said of playing with Berger. “There’s kind of no drop-off from my point of view and I feel like we can get things rolling and it looks good.

“Just the idea of keeping your legs fresh and having somebody that’s going to encourage you to make a play. [When] he makes a play, you want to make a play, so just kind of feeding off each other and keeping our legs fresh has been very beneficial to the team.”

A season ago, Walker was the feature back and got the majority of the carries in each game – for good reason. But in 2022, the Spartans are seeing the benefits of having two different backs who can share carries and keep one another rested.

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“It’s obviously different, having two versus one,” quarterback Payton Thorne said of the differences between this year and last. “We can run them out there and exchange – one guy gets tired, or one guy gets a little bit of a tweak here or there and you run the next one out.

“It’s been good stuff. I think they both bring great things to the table. They’re both good pass-catchers and they’ve done a good job so far in these first two games of being explosive and getting us in good situations to run the ball.”

The Spartans’ offensive line, which was a major question mark coming into the season, has passed with flying colors in the ground game against Mid-American Conference competition in Western Michigan and Akron.

“It’s a team effort to be able to run the ball,” head coach Mel Tucker said. “It starts up front with the line, and the backs have to hit the hole with some velocity and power, and some vision.

“Those guys are running hard and the line is blocking, our quarterbacks are getting us in and out of the correct plays so we can run the ball efficiently. The tight ends are blocking, the receivers are out there getting the job done blocking people.”

While Michigan State led by just eight points early in the fourth quarter against Western Michigan, the Spartans were able to put much more distance between themselves and Akron early in the game tonight.

That allowed Elijah Collins to get some carries in Week 2 as well, and the fifth-year senior collected 57 yards on eight carries and found the end zone for the first time since Nov. 9, 2019. Collins missed much of the last two seasons due to illness and injuries, but he looked right at home back on the field this Saturday.

“You could see that he was hitting the hole and he was running hard and trying to get everything that he could get,” Tucker said of Collins. “And, taking care of the football at the same time. That’s what we have to be able to do. We have to be able to run the football.”

Defensive competition will stiffen for the Spartans now, starting next week when Michigan State travels to the West Coast for a matchup with the Washington Huskies (2-0). However, MSU has a much better idea of what it has up front and in its backfield, and confidence is building in those two position groups.

“I just feel like, week-by-week, it will only get better,” Broussard said.

We’ll find out in seven days.