Michigan State football rushes for six touchdowns in 52-0 win over Akron

EAST LANSING — The Spartan Stadium scoreboard looked compelling. The performance on the pitch left much to be desired for the second week in a row.

Just like another potentially critical injury.

But Michigan State’s No. 11 football forced its will on both sides of the ball after halftime, generating six rushing touchdowns and shutting out Akron 52-0 on Saturday afternoon.

Wide receiver Jayden Reed left the game after landing a catch late in the first half and sliding to the Zips bench. He reportedly suffered a cut on his back on the game but did not return after half-time.

It’s the Spartans’ first shutout win for the Spartans (2-0) since a 27-0 win at Rutgers on Nov. 23, 2019. The Spartans’ last shutout was also against the Scarlet Knights on Nov. 12, 2016 .

Michigan State running back Jalen Berger scores a touchdown against Akron during the first half at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing on Saturday September 10, 2022.

Jalen Berger posted his second straight 100-yard game, getting 107 yards with three touchdowns on 17 carries. Jarek Broussard added 81 yards and two points on 15 attempts. Elijah Collins scored the sixth TD in the third quarter, his first rushing touchdown since Nov. 9, 2019 at home against Illinois when he was the starter.

Those were the most rushing touchdowns in a game for the Spartans since scoring seven in a 73-14 win on Sept. 20, 2014, over Eastern Michigan. MSU (2-0) travels to Washington next Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET/ABC).

MSU finished with 481 total rushing yards, including 245 rushing.

Another slow start

But the final totals masked the attack’s early ineffectiveness for the second straight week.

It was another erratic performance from quarterback Payton Thorne, going 18-for-28 for 212 yards and two interceptions. It was only Thorne’s second game as a starter without a touchdown pass, the other in the win over Michigan last season.

He emulated Thorne’s performance in the September 2 opener 35-13 victory over Western Michigan, which continued against Akron (1-1). The junior went 14-for-23 before halftime for 160 yards, but missed long and high on a number of throws to Coleman and one to Reed. He was nearly taken off on a pitch early in the second quarter to Christian Fitzpatrick that resulted in a pass interference penalty on Akron, but Thorne threw his pass on the next play directly to the Zips defensive lineman Zach Morton short receiver Cade McDonald for an interception in heavy traffic.

Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne makes a pass against Akron during the first half at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing on Saturday September 10, 2022.

It was boom or bust, however, for Thorne. Five of his early completions went for 101 yards and helped set up three rushing touchdowns. The first was a 1-yard dive from Broussard, his first as a Spartan, to close out MSU’s first practice, followed by a pair of 1-yard scores from Berger. The Spartans rushed for 103 yards in the half, 55 on 12 carries from Berger and 45 from Broussard on eight attempts.

MSU started after halftime, scoring four touchdowns and 188 yards in the third quarter.

The wounds are piling up

It came at the cost of losing Reed after a 22-yard catch on the final drive of the second quarter. The eldest had a team-high six catches for 76 yards before walking away with an unspecified injury.

Thorne absorbed a huge hit on the first offensive play after halftime, with his pitch canceled. He missed the next practice, with second Noah Kim coming on for the second straight week and throwing a 16-yard touchdown to Tre Mosley on his first official pass attempt following a fumble caused by linebacker Cal Haladay and picked up by defensive tackle Derrick Harmon. Kim’s lone pass against WMU didn’t count due to a pass interference penalty.

Thorne returned and led three straight drives, capped off by touchdowns from Broussard from 3 yards, Berger from 2 yards and Collins from 1 yard.

Kim took over after that, then was replaced in the final minutes by rookie Katin Houser.

MSU also injured other key players. Defensive tackle Jacob Slade (right leg) and safety Angelo Grose (left leg) both left the game in the second quarter but returned after halftime. Defensive tackle Maverick Hansen left in the fourth quarter with an apparent upper-body injury. The Spartans were already without linebacker Darius Snow for the season and safety Xavier Henderson after their injuries against WMU. Other absentees include defensive tackles Dashaun Mallory and Jalen Hunt for the second straight week and defensive end Avery Dunn after being injured late against the Broncos.

Michigan State linebacker Jacoby Windmon picks up the fumble against Akron running back Jonzell Norrils during the first half at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing on Saturday, September 10, 2022.

Defensive dominance

Despite giving up easy yards early on, MSU’s defense forced two turnovers that changed the momentum. The jarring first shot from Kendell Brooks that Akron receiver Daniel George missed and Spartans linebacker Cal Haladay recovered. Jacoby Windmon thwarted the second practice with another forced fumble, recovered by Hansen.

The Spartans allowed just 225 yards for the game, just 46 after halftime after giving up 174 in the first half. Akron had just 28 rushing yards and committed 10 penalties for 99 yards.

MSU had five sacks, knocking Zips quarterback DJ Irons out of the game before halftime.

Contact Chris Solari:[email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari.

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