FINAL: Michigan State upsets No. 24 Miami in 38-17 victory


MSU wide receiver Jayden Reed smiles as the Spartans’ take on Youngstown State on Sept. 11/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Aidan Champion, Football Beat Reporter

MIAMI, FLA.–Michigan State football made a giant leap in the search for its identity on Saturday afternoon, when it marched into Hard Rock Stadium and defeated No. 24 Miami 38-17 to improve to 3-0 on the season and 3-2 in ranked games in the Mel Tucker era.

The wide margin of victory is deceiving, as the contest was neck-and-neck for the first three quarters.

MSU did not get off to the start it’s been used to in the past couple weeks. An opening drive fumble recovery by junior linebacker Quavaris Crouch looked promising, but the Spartans wouldn’t be able to find an offensive rhythm for the majority of the first quarter.

Fortunately for MSU, the defense continued to do its job, forcing punts on the next two Hurricane possessions. 

Neither team could get much going offensively to start the game. MSU’s offensive line allowed quarterback Payton Thorne to be sacked twice, while Miami dealt with similar issues on its end.

MSU quarterback Payton Thorne runs for a score in the Spartans’ 42-14 win over Youngstown State on Sept. 11/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Just as the much anticipated matchup seemed to be going in the direction of a defensive battle, the Spartans finally marched into the red zone to end the quarter.

The Hurricanes’ defense stood strong, though, limiting MSU to just a field goal. The Spartans struck first with a 3-0 lead. 

The Hurricanes’ MVP of the day, wide receiver Charleston Rambo, answered with a drive that would ignite his 156-yard performance.

Rambo put on a 67-yard receiving drive, before ending with a 3-yard TD reception to put the Hurricanes ahead.

The Spartans started its next drive with a huge 51-yard reception from redshirt sophomore wide receiver Tre Mosley that put MSU in Hurricane territory. Miami would ultimately hold the Spartans to another field goal, but this one resulted in a miss.

Miami took advantage with a drive filled with big plays, but the Spartans fought with resilience, forcing the Hurricanes to settle for a field goal. Miami kicker Andres Borregales missed the 27-yard attempt, and the score remained 7-3 with just over six minutes left in the first half.

For most of the first half, Walker looked as if he was, in fact, human after all, as the No. 24 team in the country had seemed to find an answer that Northwestern and Youngstown State could not.

The latter half of the second quarter put an end to that narrative. Walker exploded for 46 all purpose yards in just four-straight plays. A 28-yard reception by wide receiver Jalen Nailor would set Walker up nicely for a 7-yard TD reception to put the finishing touches on the running back’s momentous drive. 

MSU wide receiver Jalen Nailor practices his release during fall practice/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Rambo came into Miami’s drive looking like he was ready to earn the Hurricanes their lead back, but an interception by Spartan safety Angelo Grose would say otherwise.

MSU closed the half with a 10-7 advantage.

Walker was back to his shifty ways to start the third quarter, but Miami’s defense eventually silenced the momentum.

A what-would-have-been three-and-out on the following Miami drive turned into a redo for the Hurricanes. MSU was punished with a roughing the kicker penalty on the Miami punt, but succeeded in forcing another punt.

Another impressive rushing drive from Walker inched the Spartans into the red zone once again. The drive ended with an 11-yard TD reception to Nailor that extended MSU’s lead to 10 after the extra point.

Miami’s No. 1 weapon in Rambo took the role of game-saver yet again, contributing to a Hurricane march down the field and capitalizing with a 14-yard TD reception.

The Spartans led just 17-14 going into the final quarter. 

Michigan State kicked off the quarter with possibly the most crucial play of the game. A sack by Spartan defensive end Drew Beesley forced a fumble by Miami QB D’Eriq King, which was recovered by Jacub Panasiuk.

The turn of events led to a TD by wide receiver Jayden Reed in just three offensive plays on the Spartan drive.

MSU wide receiver Jayden Reed makes a running catch and scores one of his two touchdowns in the Spartans’ 42-14 win over Youngstown State on Sept. 11, 2021/Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

The Hurricanes weren’t done just yet, though, as Borregales drilled a 55-yard field goal to make it just a one-possession game.

MSU had one last try to keep its lead safe before the possibility that Miami would have a chance to retaliate and even the game. On fourth down with just a yard to go, Thorne bursted up the middle on a QB keep, giving the Spartans another shot at scoring.

On the very next play, Thorne went deep, finding Nailor for a 39-yard TD pass that would serve as the dagger.

Before Miami could even attempt to make a late-game comeback effort, King was picked off by Spartan cornerback Ronald Williams on the first play after the kickoff.

One last TD for Reed put the nail in the coffin, as MSU solidified the upset.

Despite some mental mistakes and nine penalties, MSU played a clean game on the offensive side of the ball with zero turnovers. 

“We’ve been talking about taking care of the ball,” said Spartan coach Mel Tucker. “Ball security is everything. We all know what happens when you don’t take care of the football. 

“From a takeaway standpoint, we never give up on it, we emphasize it in practice, and we know they come in bunches.”

The Spartans will look to remain undefeated when it returns home next weekend to face in-conference opponent Nebraska.