Michigan State needs a bounce back season in a big way.

The Spartans last year were 5-7 overall and 3-6 in the Big Ten, a notable dropoff from an 11-win season.

On Friday night, they got their first chance with a visit from Central Michigan, and after a slow start, rolled to a 31-7 victory.

Noah Kim got the start at QB after he threw 1 touchdown in 3 games last season in his 3rd year. Mel Tucker said on pregame radio that “Noah’s done a good job, he knows the offense” and that the fall camp battle was close. “Somebody’s gotta start,” Tucker said, “and Noah’s earned that opportunity.”

The Spartans got a scare early when wide receiver Alante Brown was carted off after he suffered an apparent head injury on the opening kickoff. Brown, a transfer from Nebraska, fell to the ground after making a block on the kickoff. Brown later returned to the game, but after halftime was seen on the sideline in street clothes.

The Spartans were fortunate to avoid any points allowed on Central Michigan’s first drive as they were given a second chance following an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Derrick Harmon. That gave Central Michigan another crack near the goal line after the Chippewas sputtered on 4th down. Somehow, Central couldn’t produce anything after a drive that covered 15 plays, 57 yards and 9:35.

Noah Kim recovers from rough start

After 2 drives, Michigan State had -2 passing yards, and were just 1-for-3 on 3rd down attempts. Kim had a shaky start and missed targets, sailed passes high on 3rd down and began 2-of-7 for 6 yards. The Spartans, though, found enough life to generate a field goal with 6:55 left in the first half, as Kim improved to 3-for-10 for 29 yards.

Kim answered on an ensuing scoring drive as a pair of plays went for a combined 65 yards to Jaron Glover, as Glover accumulated 75 yards on 3 catches. The touchdown drive showed a much different Kim than the QB who started the game. He started 1-for-5 for -2 yards, and since then went 7-for-13 passing for 134 yards.

Kim needed a jolt after Central QB Bert Emanuel Jr. gave the Chippewas a spark, and the lead, when he found Chris Parker for a 12-yard touchdown on a 3-play drive that was enhanced by a pair of Michigan State facemask penalties, which added 26 yards of penalties to the ends of plays. Kim’s performance helped State to a 10-7 halftime lead.

Kim finished 18-for-31 for 279 yards and 2 touchdowns in the game.

Cal Haladay shows leadership

Linebacker Cal Haladay is expected to have another big season for the Spartans after he led the B1G with 10 tackles per game last year, and earned second-team All-Big Ten honors. He’s a preseason candidate for the Butkus and Bednarik Awards and the Nagurski Trophy.

Haladay made his presence felt as Central got some momentum on a 6-play drive in the 3rd quarter that went into Spartan territory. But then Haladay reached and caught and interception after it was broken up by Angelo Grose. By that point, he led the team with 7 tackles, including a tackle for a loss.

He was in the middle of a solid defense that also saw strong play from Aaron Brule and Tunmise Adeleye. Overall, the Spartans had 3 sacks and 8 tackles for a loss through 3 quarters alone. Through 3 quarters, Central was just 1-for-9 on 3rd down conversions.

Tyrell Henry highlight-reel catch

Not only was it his first career catch, but Tyrell Henry made it memorable, both because it scored a touchdown, but it also was sensational. A one-handed grab as he fell down and drew a penalty flag as the Spartans made it 24-7.

That capped a drive that was highlighted by a 72-yard catch by Christian Fitzpatrick.

Henry is expected to have an increased role on the offense this season after he was primarily a special teams player last year. Henry in 2022 appeared in 11 games, and led the team in kick returns with 10 returns for 183 yards.