Jacoby Windmon keeps his cool after stellar debut

EAST LANSING — Throughout his six-minute post-match interview, Jacoby Windmon spoke in a monotonous voice. His stoicism belied his spectacular play on Friday night.

Windmon, in his first appearance at Michigan State after being transferred from UNLV, had a dazzling debut, finishing with seven tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble in the season-opening 35-13 victory over the team against Western Michigan at Spartan Stadium.

His sack total was the most by an MSU player in a single game in two decades (Matthias Askew also had four against WMU in 2003) and tied for the second best performance in program history, just one over Travis Davis’ school record of five. , which came at the expense of Ohio State in 1987. Windmon’s four tackles for loss earned him another spot in the school’s top 10 for a single game, the best performance in that department by a Spartan since Malik McDowell had 4.5 TFL against Maryland in 2015. .

Putting Friday into perspective — Was it the best game of his career? — wasn’t on Windmon’s mind, though.

“I just go out there and play, man,” Windmon said. “We watch the movie the next day, and I kind of go from there. I don’t look at the stats or anything. I just play my heart out and let the rest take care of itself.”

That night, he made it look easy, settling almost permanently in the Broncos’ backfield.

“He’s a great player,” Western Michigan coach Tim Lester said. “We knew their first seven (were going to) be great.”

Windmon accounted for more than half of MSU’s seven sacks in the win. It’s a day Bronco quarterback Jack Salopek won’t soon forget.

“It’s a great way to learn when you get hit by a 300-pound guy,” Lester said. “Seven sacks in one game is way too many. We have to be better up front and we have to make sure he knows where his controls are so he doesn’t take too many hits.”

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The seven sacks tied the most the Spartans had in one game in Mel Tucker’s three seasons as coach, which puts him alongside last season’s total against Nebraska.

“We always have to make our rushing and our coverage work together,” Tucker said, “so we can play the kind of defense we need here.”

However, Tucker wouldn’t allow anyone to downplay Windmon’s game.

“Obviously he had a high production level today in terms of bag production,” Tucker said. “I don’t care who you play.”

Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III (9) runs for a touchdown past Northwestern safety Brandon Joseph (16) during the first half of last season's game in Evanston, Illinois.  Like Walker, Jacoby Windmon joined MSU on a transfer.  And like Walker, Windmon had a game for the ages in his early days.

Windmon’s stellar start marked the second time in as many seasons that a transfer has excelled in Michigan State’s opener. Last year, Kenneth Walker III took his first touchdown 75 yards for scoring en route to 264 rushing yards in MSU’s 38-21 win at Northwestern.

Compiling such a sparkling stat line in his first game as a Spartan is exactly what Windmon envisioned after joining the program.

“It was a great opportunity to go out there in ‘The Woodshed’ and defend our home. Go out there and do what we love to do best,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for a better vibe from the fans. They were all excited, in the game. The guys on the sidelines, they brought juice. Everyone had their own juice. So it was exciting to go out and get it. finished with my brothers.”

Friday’s memorable outing was, in a sense, a throwback to the future for Windmon.

During his first season at UNLV, he played defensive end. The following year, he moved to linebacker – the same place he expected to play at Michigan State. Throughout the Spartans’ pre-season camp, that’s where he lined up. But as the side started to calm down, he started taking more and more reps on the defensive end.

MSU LB Jacoby Windmon sacks WMU QB Jack Salopek on Friday, September 2, 2022, in the season opener against Western Michigan at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.  Jacoby had four bags.

Training was perfect on Friday.

“A few weeks before the game, we just made the switch to play D-end,” he said. “I was up for it. I had that mindset to just come in and dominate whatever position I was in on the pitch.”

How he continually punished anyone who tried – mostly unsuccessfully – to block him on Friday, he couldn’t tell. Or maybe he didn’t want to reveal his pass-rushing secrets.

“It was nothing serious. I was just doing my job,” he said. “We go through these situations in practice, so I strongly believe that you practice the way you play. We just have to go out there and execute. Hats off to West Michigan. They’re a very talented team, well I don’t I couldn’t ask for a better job than that, so it was a good opportunity to go out there and improve.

That’s exactly what he told Tucker after the win.

“I just talked to him a minute ago, and he’s hungry. He just wants to get better,” Tucker said. “We identified him in camp, and in the spring as well, as one of our best pass throwers – maybe our best pass thrower. And pass throwers are hard to come by. You always have to be able to affect the quarterback.”

Windmon aims to be a nightmare for opposing signallers throughout the season. For all the attention given to his individual exploits on Friday, his focus was elsewhere.

It was a team effort through and through.

“In training we are doing good on good (the No.1 attack against the No.1 defence). Even if the attack can make plays or the defense can make plays, we all celebrate together, because at at the end of the day, we are one team and we all have a goal,” he said. “So for us to go out there and play complementary football was great. The defense made a save, the attack fed off of that and they scored. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Contact Ryan Black at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @RyanABlack.

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