Three Up/Three Down: Spartans Use Fast Start To Earn Win Against Western Kentucky

Michigan State earned a 48-31 victory in their final non-conference game of the regular season against Western Kentucky.
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Jayden Reed set the tone of the game on the opening drive, after the defense forced Western Kentucky to punt on their opening possession, Reed took the ensuing punt 88 yards for a touchdown. This was the second straight week Reed took a punt return back for a touchdown becoming only the third player in Michigan State history to have two punt return touchdowns in the same season.

Reed also added a 46 yard touchdown reception from Payton Thorne for his other touchdown in the game. Kenneth Walker III had three touchdowns as well all on the ground, and Payton Thorne added a touchdown run late in the first half on a 12 yard run to pace the offense to 42 first half points before managing the game and clock in the second half to earn a 48-31 victory over Western Kentucky.

Three Up

Jayden Reed's ability to change a game

Last week Reed waited until the fourth quarter with four minutes left in the game to return a punt for a touchdown to give the Spartans a tied game. This week Reed did it in the opening minutes of the game when he returned a punt return 88 yards for a touchdown to give the Spartans an early 7-0 lead before the offense even had to step foot on the field. Reed has the capability to change a game on special teams and offense where he had a second straight game with over a 40 yard reception for a touchdown as well. He's electric with the ball in his hands.

Turnover battle won again

One of the biggest things that set apart teams from winning and losing comes down to who wins the turnover battle. Michigan State has lost this battle only once in week 1 against Northwestern when Harold Joiner had a fumble late when the game wasn't in question. Michigan State forced one turnover on the night when Cal Haladay forced a fumble and then recovered it. Payton Thorne isn't making mistakes and still only has one interception on the season and Kenneth Walker III still hasn't fumbled yet through five games.

Matt Coughlin steady as ever

Coughlin is one of those guys you think of that seems like he's been on the team for the past ten seasons. He has been here for a while going on his fifth year now but continues to produce at a high level and is a game changer with his steady kicking ability. Coughlin kicked two field goals tonight, both short at 20 and 21 yards but both were good. Couglin tied the school record with his 70th and 71st make in his career as a Spartan.

Three Down

Red zone opportunities

The Spartans defense is doing a good job not letting teams score touchdowns when they get in the red zone, but the amount of times the last two weeks both Nebraska and Western Kentucky were in the red zone was semi-alarming. Michigan State held Western Kentucky to three first half field goals was huge early in the game but they also were moving the ball somewhat seemingly to get in those positions. Against most Big Ten teams they will have to do better.

Linebacker depth for Rutgers next week

Cal Haladay was ejected in the fourth quarter on a very questionable targeting call and will now have to miss the first half against Rutgers next week as well. On top of that, Chase Kline entered the transfer portal earlier in the week so linebacker depth is already more slim than it was. Ben VanSumeren and Ma'a Gaoteote will both have to step up at least in the first half next week at linebacker. They both had one tackle in the game tonight.

Second halves

I know the game tonight was a blowout at half time and the Spartans were just trying to get out of the game without getting hurt but no touchdowns and two field goals in the second half wasn't the most ideal situation. It would've been nice to see them punch at least one more touchdown in the second half after how bad the offense looked last week in the second half. It's another small thing that will need to be corrected going forward as we move into the chunk of the Big Ten season.