Payton Thorne settles in at quarterback in breakout game for hot-starting Michigan State
Some days everything just clicks, and Saturday afternoon against Youngstown State was one of those days for Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne. The redshirt sophomore had a hand in 5 of the Spartans touchdowns en route to a 42-14 win over the Penguins in East Lansing.
‘We wanted to start fast’
After Kenneth Walker III’s game-opening touchdown run against Northwestern in Michigan State’s season opener, Youngstown State was sure to be keying on the transfer running back on the first play of their Week 2 matchup. And the Penguins were, right up until Walker flipped the ball back to Thorne. Thorne connected with wide receiver Jayden Reed for a 75-yard touchdown pass on that first play from scrimmage, putting the Spartans up 7-0 right out of the gate — again.
Spartans head coach Mel Tucker said of the play call, “We wanted to start fast.”
Thorne would go on to throw for 4 touchdowns and 280 yards, while rushing for another to lead Michigan State to its second win of the season in as many games.
Later in the first quarter, Thorne found the end zone again, but this time on the ground scoring from 10 yards out on a perfectly executed read-option to put the Spartans up 14-0. It marked the second straight week MSU held a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Thorne was just getting started
Xavier Henderson came away with a Youngstown State quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw pass for an interception at the MSU 2-yard line, and 3 plays later Thorne found Reed again. This time, he hit him for an 85-yard touchdown down the middle of the field to put the Spartans up 21-0.
After a 3-and-out by Youngstown State, Thorne took the MSU offense 52 yards on 4 plays, capped by a 20-yard touchdown screen pass to Elijah Collins.
YSU took the ensuing kickoff and covered 75 yards in 12 plays, finished by a 6-yard touchdown run by Crenshaw on fourth down to finally get on the scoreboard.
Before the close of the first half, the Spartans would reach the end zone one more time, when last week’s hero, Walker, scored on a 6-yard run with 0:17 remaining for a 35-7 MSU lead at the half.
After halftime, Youngstown State marched 75 yards on 10 plays for its final score.
MSU capped the scoring on a 16-yard pass from Thorne to Jalen Nailor with 4:32 left in the third quarter.
Offense, offense, offense
Unlike last week’s one-man show against Northwestern that featured Walker running all over the Wildcats defense, this time around the Spartans displayed some of the much talked about depth they feature at the running back position.
The Spartans rushing attack was led by last season’s team leader Jordon Simmons, with 16 carries and 121 yards, while Walker carried 7 times with 57 yards and a touchdown. Donovan Eaglin and Elijah Collins also had touches, with each having over 30-yard games. Collins was seen limping on the sidelines following his touchdown catch, and a report on his condition has yet to be released.
But it was the aerial attack that grabbed the headlines for the MSU offense this time around, with Thorne converting 15 of 21 passes for 280 yards with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions. Graduate transfer Anthony Russo began taking snaps late in the third quarter, and completed 5 of 7 passes for 43 yards.
The MSU offense finished with 595 yards after putting up 511 in the opening win at Northwestern.
The Spartans (2-0) will travel south next weekend to face the No. 24 Miami Hurricanes next Saturday at noon ET at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.