Dec 30, 2021; Atlanta, GA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers wide receiver Jordan Addison (3) runs with the ball after a catch against the Michigan State Spartans during the first half during the 2021 Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

No. 10 Michigan State rallies past No. 12 Pitt in Peach Bowl

In a game more notable for who didn’t play than who did, No. 10 Michigan State scored two touchdowns in the last 2:51 Thursday night to beat No. 12 Pittsburgh 31-21 at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta.

Payton Thorne found Jayden Reed for a 22-yard touchdown pass to wipe out a 21-16 deficit and put the Spartans on top. Cal Haladay thwarted the Panthers’ final drive by intercepting a Davis Beville pass and returning it 78 yards for the clinching score with 22 seconds remaining.

Michigan State (11-2) outscored Pitt 21-0 in the fourth quarter.

Thorne completed 29 of 50 passes for 354 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Playing without star running back Kenneth Walker III, who opted out to prepare for the NFL draft, the Spartans rushed for just 56 yards on 36 attempts.

Pittsburgh (11-3) didn’t have star quarterback Kenny Pickett, who also opted out to prepare for his pro career. Starter Nick Patti was 2 of 5 for 21 yards before leaving after two drives due to injury. Beville hit on 14 of 18 attempts for 149 yards with a touchdown and the game-sealing pick.

Jordan Addison caught seven passes for 114 yards for the Panthers, while Jalen Nailor had six grabs for 108 yards for the Spartans.

Michigan State took a 7-0 lead just 1:49 into the game, taking advantage of a short field set up by a mishandling of the opening kickoff by Pittsburgh and a 16-yard punt return by Reed. Thorne hooked up with Reed for a 28-yard touchdown.

The Panthers equalized on their next drive, although it wasn’t without significant cost. Patti sustained a game-ending left shoulder injury as he scored on a 16-yard run with 7:57 left in the opening quarter. He returned to the sideline later with a sling protecting the arm.

Matt Coghlan’s 36-yard field goal just over five minutes later gave the Spartans a 10-7 edge, but Beville led a beautiful 87-yard march down the field and gave Pittsburgh a 14-10 halftime lead at the 1:01 mark of the second quarter with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Jared Wayne.

A 26-yard touchdown on a fumble return by Pitt’s Cam Bright on the third play from scrimmage in the second half gave the Panthers a 21-10 edge.

Michigan State cut into the deficit with Thorne’s 15-yard scoring pass to Connor Heyward with 8:06 to play in the game. A two-point conversion pass was unsuccessful, leaving the Spartans behind 21-16.

–Field Level Media

Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III runs past Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Jerron Cage during the first quarter at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on Nov. 20, 2021.

Syndication The Providence Journal

Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker III to enter draft

Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III said Thursday that he will enter the 2022 NFL Draft.

He also will skip the Peach Bowl, pitting the No. 10 Spartans against No. 12 Pitt, on Dec. 30.

“It has been a true honor to represent Michigan State University and wear the Green and White,” Walker wrote in a statement posted to Twitter. “I am beyond grateful to Coach (Mel) Tucker and the entire staff for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to shine under their leadership. As the regular season has come to a close, I would like to announce that I have decided to forgo playing in the Peach Bowl to begin preparation for the NFL Draft.”

Walker transferred from Wake Forest and played just one season for the Spartans, but it was one that long will be remembered in East Lansing. He ran for 1,636 yards, scored 18 touchdowns and became the first ever Michigan State player to win the Walter Camp Player of the Year and the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back. He finished sixth overall in the Heisman Trophy voting — the best for a Michigan State player since 1988 — and was a consensus All-American.

He likely will be one of the first running backs selected in the draft. USA Today’s latest mock draft has Walker as the third running back off the board.

Tucker thanked Walker for his contributions in a statement he posted to Twitter.

“I want to congratulate Ken for all his success and thank him for taking a chance on us,” Tucker said. “From the day he set foot on campus in January, he has done nothing but work extremely hard and represent Michigan State University with class. He quickly earned the respect of his teammates and coaches, and they were happy to share in his success and accolades.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 5, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; A fans holds a sign for Tate Myre one of the Oxford High School shooting victims before the start of the NFL game between the Detroit Lions and the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State honors shooting victim Tate Myre as honorary signee

Michigan State added Tate Myre, the high school football player killed in a school shooting last month, as an honorary member of its 2022 signing class on Wednesday.

Myre was one of four students who died as a result of the Nov. 28 mass shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan. A 15-year-old student has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and terrorism causing death.

“We are honored to recognize Tate Myre as the first Spartan Dawg of the 2022 class,” Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker said in a video posted to social media. “A Spartan Dawg is defined, not by the plays they make on the field, but by the character they exemplify, the leadership they bring to their team and their community, and for extraordinary individuals like Tate Myre, their heroism. Tate is, and always will be, a Spartan Dawg.”

Myre, who was a junior, aspired to play college football and had been invited to recruiting visits at Michigan State.

Witnesses said Myre was shot as he ran toward the shooter, and Tucker lauded him as a hero as well as an athlete.

“Tate Myre had an unmatched work ethic, athleticism and love for his teammates,” Tucker added. “He had a passion to one day play for Michigan State. This passion was paired with an unstoppable drive and follow through to get there. Tate’s consistency on and off the football field elevated everyone who knew him.”

The Michigan football team earlier honored Myre by wearing a patch with his No. 42 on their jerseys during the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 4.

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2021; East Lansing, Michigan, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) gets wrapped up by Michigan State Spartans defensive end Drew Beesley (86) during the second quarter at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

No. 12 Michigan State hangs on to beat Penn State

Payton Thorne passed for two touchdowns and rushed for another as No. 12 Michigan State defeated visiting Penn State 30-27 at snowy East Lansing, Mich., on Saturday.

Kenneth Walker III rushed for 138 yards on 30 carries and a touchdown for the Spartans (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten), who lost 56-7 to Ohio State the previous game.

Sean Clifford threw three touchdown passes, including two to Jahan Dotson, for the Nittany Lions (7-5, 4-5). Daequan Hardy had a 27-yard interception return for a touchdown for Penn State, which lost five of its last seven regular season games.

The Spartans led 17-14 at halftime.

Michigan State took the opening kickoff and drove 76 yards for a touchdown. Walker, who was questionable to play due to an ankle injury, picked up the last two yards. Thorne’s 40-yard pass to Maliq Carr set up the score.

The Spartans’ next possession was even more impressive. They drove 99 yards in nine plays to take a 14-0 lead. Walker got them away from their goal line with a 35-yard scamper. Thorne’s 9-yard pass to Tre Mosley capped it off.

Penn State answered the next time it had the ball. Clifford, who departed the Nittany Lions’ 28-0 win over Rutgers a week earlier with flu-like symptoms, connected with Dotson from 27 yards out.

After Michigan State was forced to punt from deep in its territory, the Nittany Lions tied it on Clifford’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Dotson early in the second quarter.

Matt Coghlin’s 22-yard field goal gave the Spartans a 17-14 lead. Penn State’s Jordan Stout missed a 27-yard field goal attempt in the final minute.

Penn State took the lead less than four minutes into the second half on Hardy’s 27-yard interception return. The extra point was missed.

The Spartans regained the lead on Thorne’s 1-yard plunge with 2:14 left in the quarter. They also missed the point after.

Following a Nittany Lions turnover, Jayden Reed made a leaping grab in the end zone of a Thorne pass on 4th-and15. That 20-yard touchdown gave the Spartans a 10-point lead with 5:10 remaining.

–Field Level Media

Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III runs past Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Jerron Cage during the first quarter at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on Nov. 20, 2021.

Syndication The Providence Journal

No. 12 Michigan State hopes to rebound vs. Penn State

Michigan State lost all hope for a College Football Playoff berth and a Big Ten championship during a non-competitive outing against Ohio State on Saturday.

The Spartans, who tumbled to No. 12 in the CFP rankings, will look to finish the regular season on a high note when they host Penn State this Saturday in East Lansing, Mich.

The Buckeyes cruised to a 56-7 romp over the Spartans (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten). The score could have been worse, considering Ohio State led 49-0 at halftime.

“We accept responsibility for what happened, the coaches and players,” coach Mel Tucker said. “We learned from it and put together a plan to improve and correct things. Then we turned the page to prepare for Penn State.”

With their record, the Spartans are still likely to play in a New Year’s Day bowl. They could enhance their resume with a victory over the Nittany Lions (7-4, 4-4), who blanked Rutgers 28-0 last weekend after a narrow loss to Michigan.

“We have a lot to play for on Saturday,” Tucker said. “We have a significant amount of seniors, some of whom have been here six years. We want to make it a special day for them. We have an opportunity to win 10 games and to go undefeated in the Wood Shed (Spartan Stadium) in front of our fans.”

However, Tucker admitted losses to Purdue and Ohio State stung after his team surprised many people by going 8-0.

“We’re not playing with the house’s money, so to speak,” he said. “That’s not our attitude. I get that a lot, so I know the players are hearing that as well. ‘Hey, this has been a great season. No one expected you to do anything.’ That doesn’t register with me and that doesn’t register with our team.”

Kenneth Walker III likely saw his Heisman Trophy dreams dashed in Columbus. The junior running back rushed for just 25 yards on six carries and caught one pass.

Walker sustained an undisclosed injury and his status for Saturday’s game is unknown.

The Spartans might also be missing their top two receivers. Jayden Reed suffered a right foot injury against the Buckeyes, and Jalen Nailor sat out with a hand injury.

This game includes the unique circumstance of pitting two coaches who signed 10-year contract extensions this week — Tucker with the Spartans and James Franklin with the Nittany Lions.

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford left the game against the Scarlet Knights early with flu-like symptoms, but freshman replacement Christian Veilleux tossed three touchdown passes. Clifford is expected to play on Saturday.

Franklin is concerned that the Spartans will be an angry bunch after getting pounded last weekend.

“Whether it’s a close loss, that people feel you should have won against a really good opponent, or whether it’s the opposite, it’s challenging,” Franklin said. “Especially teams that have high expectations, high standards.”

The Nittany Lions should be able to exploit Michigan State’s FBS-worst pass defense (339.9 ypg), but Franklin won’t scrap his running game.

“The numbers do matter,” he said. “But you have to play your game plan and you have to stay balanced because if you try to become something on Saturday that you haven’t been throughout the season, then you’re going to get out of whack.”

–Field Level Media

Michigan State's head coach Mel Tucker calls out to players during the fourth quarter in the game against Maryland on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.

211113 Msu Maryland 160a

Michigan State finalizes 10-year, $95M deal with Mel Tucker

A lopsided loss to a rival wasn’t enough to prevent Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker from landing a 10-year, $95 million contract extension.

The deal, which was reported by multiple media outlets last week, was confirmed by the school on Wednesday.

In the interim, the Spartans went to Ohio State and were demolished 56-7, dropping Michigan State’s record to 9-2 on the season. On the plus side, the Spartans did beat rival Michigan 37-33 earlier last month.

The extension puts Tucker under contract through Jan. 15, 2032.

Tucker tweeted after the school’s announcement, “Every day I wake up feeling humbled to be the Head Football Coach at Michigan State. It is my privilege to work alongside our student athletes, coaches and staff who embody our culture of hard work, discipline, and excellence — on and off the field. …

“(We are engaged in) a process to build a championship-winning program. A process that drives us to be better. A process that demands relentless soul and grit. And a process that requires support from Spartans across the globe.

“I am honored to be a part of the Spartan process today, and for years to come.”

University president Samuel L. Stanley Jr. wrote in a statement, “Mel Tucker has been an outstanding addition to our Spartan Athletic program. In less than two years, his leadership has already resulted in a program competing for top honors, and I’m impressed by his intensity and drive. Spartan fans around the country are enjoying the success of this year’s football program and we look forward to many more successful seasons, competing at the highest levels under Coach Tucker.”

Tucker, 49, is set to become the second-highest paid college football coach behind just Alabama’s Nick Saban, per the USA Today salary database.

After spending one season as the head coach at Colorado, producing a 5-7 record in 2019, Tucker came to Michigan State and led the Spartans to a 2-5 mark in 2020.

The 49-year-old Ohio native previously was an assistant coach for Miami (Ohio), LSU, Ohio State, Alabama and Georgia in the college ranks as well as the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears in the NFL.

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA;  Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Garrett Wilson (5) celebrates his touch down with quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) in the first half against the Michigan State Spartans at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

No. 4 Ohio State steamrolls No. 7 Michigan State, 56-7

C.J. Stroud threw six first-half touchdowns as No. 4 Ohio State routed No.7 Michigan State 56-7 in Big Ten play at Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday.

It was no contest for the Buckeyes (10-1, 8-0 Big Ten), who led 28-0 a minute into the second quarter on Stroud’s four TDs. Chris Olave had two (23 and 43 yards) to break David Boston’s school record of 34 receiving scores.

Michigan State (9-2, 6-2) entered last among the 130 FBS teams with 329.0 passing yards allowed and Stroud surpassed that total by one yard with 7:01 left in the second quarter on a 12-yard TD pass to Garrett Wilson to make it 35-0 en route to a 49-0 halftime score.

Stroud was 29 of 31 for 393 yards in the first half, He played one series in the third quarter to finish 32 of 35 for 432 yards. His six TDs tied the school record.

He also completed 17 straight passes in the first half to break the program record of 16 in a row by J.T. Barrett in 2017 and Justin Fields last season.

Olave had 140 yards on seven catches, Jaxon Smith-Njigba 105 on 10 receptions and Wilson’s seven catches went for 126 yards.

Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III, the nation’s leading rusher at 147.3 yards per game, was rendered non-essential after the Buckeyes scored on their first three possessions for a 21-0 lead with 2:31 left in the first quarter.

Walker had 25 yards on six carries and was held out most of the second half.

Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne was 14 for 36 for 158 yards and a TD.

Ohio State entered as the nation’s leader in scoring (46.3) and total offense (540.4 yards) and outgained Michigan State 500-116 in the first half and 655-224 for the game

In the Nov. 27 regular season finales, Michigan State hosts Penn State and Ohio State plays at No. 6 Michigan.

–Field Level Media

Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker and players march towards Spartan Stadium before the Youngstown State game in East Lansing on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. Michigan State won the game, 42-14.

Reports: Michigan St. to offer Mel Tucker $95M extension

Michigan State is preparing to offer Spartans head coach Mel Tucker a 10-year, $95 million extension that would make him the second-highest paid football coach in the nation, the Detroit Free Press reported Wednesday.

The “Inside the Locker Room” podcast also reported the impending deal Tuesday night, adding that MSU alums Mat Ishbia and Steve St. Andre are donating the private funding for the extension.

Tucker, 49, would be No. 2 nationally behind only Alabama’s Nick Saban, per the USA Today salary database. Tucker would pass Penn State James Franklin for tops in the Big Ten, per the database.

Further, only three NFL coaches (Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, Sean Payton) would be making more than Tucker once the deal is consummated. It would also make Tucker the highest paid Black coach in all of American sports, passing Stanford’s David Shaw. Mike Tomlin is the highest paid Black coach in the NFL at $8 million.

Tucker’s current salary of $5.632 million is fourth in the conference and 13th nationally, per USA Today.

Tucker is 11-6 as Spartans head coach in just shy of two full seasons. He went 5-7 in one year at Colorado before leaving for East Lansing.

The Spartans (9-1) are No. 7 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings.

Taking the Spartans from afterthought to a Top 10 team this season made Tucker the odds-on favorite to become the new head coach at LSU, which is parting ways with Ed Orgeron at season’s end.

Tucker being linked to LSU was a catalyst for the new deal, per the Free Press report.

Ishbia is chairman, president and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage The former Sparty basketball walk-on also donated $32 million in February toward a new football facility. St. Andre is the founder of marketing firm Shift Digital.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; West Lafayette, Indiana, USA; Michigan State Spartans running back Kenneth Walker III (9) runs for a touchdown in the first half against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross-Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

No. 7 Michigan State looking to rebound against Maryland

Michigan State dropped four spots to No. 7 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday, a consequence of the Spartans’ first loss of the season last week.

The 40-29 loss to Purdue likely was fresh in selection committee members’ minds when they decided to rank Michigan State one spot behind rival Michigan, despite the Spartans’ head-to-head win over the Wolverines just one week earlier.

The Spartans (8-1, 5-1 Big Ten) are not out of the running yet. They would earn a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game if they win out over the final three weeks of the regular season, a task that begins Saturday against Maryland in East Lansing, Mich.

Coach Mel Tucker is intent on not letting the various highs and lows of the journey affect his players.

“Like I told our team after the game, all our goals are in front of us,” Tucker said. “We met as a team (Tuesday) morning. We talked about the focus and the preparation that we needed this week. I felt like the guys were dialed in. We need to block out the noise and focus on what we’ve got to get done and not worry about anything outside our program.”

The Terrapins (5-4, 2-4) have objectives of their own, namely achieving bowl eligibility for the first time since 2016. They are coming off a 31-14 loss to Penn State last week, with Nittany Lions receiver Jahan Dotson burning them for a school-record 242 yards and three touchdowns.

“Most of the time they just caught us out of formation, out of leverage, bad technique, stuff like that,” cornerback Tarheeb Still said. “I don’t think it’s really that they’re just better than us, going out there and straight beating us.”

Maryland will pivot from scouting a star receiver to a star running back. Coach Mike Locksley is bracing his team for Michigan State’s Heisman Trophy candidate, Kenneth Walker III, who did his part against Purdue with 136 rushing yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. He found the end zone five times the week before that in the win over Michigan.

Maryland’s defensive staff told Locksley that more than 900 of Walker’s 1,330 yards have come after contact.

“Which means he’s one of those guys that you better bring all your pads and all your friends when you tackle him,” Locksley said.

While Walker continues to produce, Michigan State has defensive worries of its own. After allowing 552 total yards and 26 first downs to Michigan, the Spartans gave up 594 yards and 29 to the Boilermakers. Purdue converted on 11 of 18 third downs, keeping Michigan State’s defense on the field for extended stretches.

“I don’t like ‘bend but don’t break.’ That’s not the philosophy,” Tucker said. “When you’re bending, that means you’re not getting off the field on third down.”

Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell racked up 536 yards through the air. The next passer up is Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa, who ranks second in the Big Ten in both yards per game (306.1) and completion percentage (70.5).

The Spartans have yet to face Tagovailoa. Last year’s game was declared a no-contest as Maryland dealt with a COVID-19 outbreak.

Michigan State leads the all-time series 9-2, including 5-1 since Maryland joined the Big Ten.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; West Lafayette, Indiana, USA; Michigan State Spartans quarterback Payton Thorne (10) passes the ball  in the second half against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross-Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

CFP rankings: Michigan State slips to No. 7, behind Michigan

Michigan State fell four spots from No. 3 to No. 7 in Tuesday’s College Football Playoff rankings following the program’s first loss of the season last Saturday to Purdue.

In a surprise move, the committee dropped the Spartans behind in-state rival Michigan — even though Michigan State defeated the Wolverines head-to-head one week prior.

Georgia and Alabama remained Nos. 1 and 2, and Oregon, Ohio State and Cincinnati all moved up one spot with the Spartans’ fall.

At No. 5, Cincinnati made history for the second straight week as the highest CFP ranking ever attained by a program from a “Group of Five” conference.

Rounding out the top 10 behind Michigan and Michigan State were Oklahoma, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State. The 9-0 Sooners remained at No. 8 after last week’s open date.

Wake Forest also suffered its first loss of the season Saturday, a 58-55 shootout against North Carolina. The Demon Deacons dropped three places from No. 9 to No. 12.

Texas A&M, which defeated SEC West foe Auburn 20-3, moved up to No. 11. This week the Aggies will visit Ole Miss, which is ranked No. 15.

Purdue entered the rankings at No. 19 after beating Michigan State. It was the second such upset victory of the Boilermakers’ season; three weeks earlier, they beat Iowa, which was ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press Top 25 at the time.

Texas-San Antonio (UTSA), one of four unbeatens left in the Football Bowl Subdivision, also earned a ranking this week after missing out a week ago. The 9-0 Roadrunners are No. 23 after beating UTEP 44-23.

Utah and Arkansas also entered the rankings at Nos. 24 and 25, respectively. Below is the complete Top 25:

1. Georgia
2. Alabama
3. Oregon
4. Ohio State
5. Cincinnati
6. Michigan
7. Michigan State
8. Oklahoma
9. Notre Dame
10. Oklahoma State
11. Texas A&M
12. Wake Forest
13. Baylor
14. BYU
15. Ole Miss
16. North Carolina State
17. Auburn
18. Wisconsin
19. Purdue
20. Iowa
21. Pittsburgh
22. San Diego State
23. UTSA
24. Utah
25. Arkansas

–Field Level Media