Takeaways from MSU’s 35-13 victory over Western Michigan


MSU head coach Mel Tucker oversees practice on Dec. 25 in preparation for the 2021 Peach Bowl against No. 13 Pittsburgh/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Cameron McClarren, Sports Broadcast Assistant

EAST LANSING — The No.15 Michigan State Spartans kicked off the 2022 season with a hard-fought “Friday Night Lights” win against the Western Michigan Broncos. In a game that looked to be over early, the Spartans were able to withstand a strong second-half from their in-state foes, starting the third year of the Mel Tucker era with a win. 

Here are some takeaways from MSU’s 35-13 victory over the Broncos:

Keeping the motor running (Sluggish Start)

The Spartans did not have the same luck they did last year when Kenneth Walker III took the season-opening play 75 yards for a touchdown against Northwestern but they eventually found their stride. It just took them a little longer than expected. 

After consecutive three-and-outs to start the game, the Spartans needed a spark on offense. Quarterback Payton Thorne, marred early by some uncharacteristic overthrows, eventually settled in and found freshman wide receiver Germie Bernard for a 44-yard touchdown pass with under five minutes to play in the first quarter. The pass capped off a six-play, 75-yard drive for the Spartans as they took a 7-3 lead. 

It was a different type of start than fans were hoping for but it’s a sign of things to come for the Spartans. The flair of last season is hard to replicate when you lose two key pieces of the offense in Walker III and Jalen Nailor, and with some new additions, the kinks showed against the Broncos. 

However, the Spartans began to find their footing with help on the other side of the ball.  

Sparked by the offense, MSU’s defense followed through on their end forcing two consecutive three-and-outs as the Spartans extended their lead to 18 points late in the first half. 

The reason: physicality. 

The Spartan defense, led by the secondary, was not afraid to bring some tenacity and violence to their tackles. After causing one fumble on the drive before, the Spartans created another when defensive back Kendall Brooks laid a huge open field hit on Western Michigan’s Sean Tyler, who fumbled the ball and could not recover it before MSU defensive tackle Simeon Barrow. 

The Spartans would win the turnover battle thanks to the defense forcing two fumbles and seven team sacks on Broncos quarterback Jack Salopek. Salopek, who made quite a few plays throughout the game, could not get enough help from his offensive line as the Spartans stymied the Broncos’ offense for a majority of the game and held the Broncos offense to three points in the first half.

Single-digit surprises (Coleman, Bernard, Barker)

Along with the Bernard touchdown, a few other Spartans wearing single-digits made an impact against the Broncos. 

Daniel Barker played a pivotal role on offense in the receiving and running game while also providing a few well-placed blocks, something that MSU needed to spark their 21-point run in the first half and can build on going forward. Barker finished with one reception for 13 yards and two carries for a yard. 

The Spartans also got a huge relief in the wideout position with Keon Coleman starting at the wideout position. After the departure of Jalen Nailor, who was drafted in the sixth round by the Minnesota Vikings. Coleman had four catches on nine targets for 84 yards and a touchdown that extended the Spartan lead to 18 points before halftime. 

The running game made a stride in the right direction with Jalen Berger taking a majority of the handoffs. The former Wisconsin Badger scored his first touchdown for Michigan State late in the fourth quarter with a one-yard rush that put the Spartans ahead by two possessions. Berger averaged 7.5 yards per rush on 16 carries and one touchdown. 


It wouldn’t be the first game of the season without some injury trouble, but for MSU, there were some scary moments as the injuries started to mount. Receiver Jayden Reed had to exit the game with an injury but later returned. Reed finished with two receptions on three targets for 31 yards as the Broncos held him from reaching the end zone. 

On defense, the Spartans lost plays from multiple members of the secondary including Angelo Grose and Brooks, both of whom would return to the game. Grose would share a team-high 11 tackles including four solo tackles, while Brooks recorded five tackles and a forced fumble. 

However, the Spartans lost one of the biggest pieces of their defense in linebacker Darius Snow, who exited the game with what appeared to be a lower-body injury. Snow, who made the transition from safety to linebacker this year, totaled two tackles in the one half he played but was expected to make a bigger splash as a central member of the linebacker corps before exiting. 

With Snow gone, senior linebacker Jacoby Windmon stepped up and played a huge role in keeping the Broncos’ offense at bay. Windmon would finish the game with seven total tackles and a team-high four sacks (tied for the second-most in a single game in program history) while also recording a forced fumble in the second quarter. 

The Spartans also lost starting safety Xavier Henderson to an undisclosed injury. Henderson finished with just one pass breakup before his exit. 

Next up for the Spartans is a meeting against the Akron Zips on Saturday, September 10 in East Lansing. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.