FINAL: Spartans leave no doubt in victory over Akron


Head coach Mel Tucker leads his team out of the tunnel to face Akron. Sept. 10, 2022/Photo credit: LeAnn Espinoza

Liam Jackson, Sports Editor

EAST LANSING, Mich. – No. 14 Michigan State took care of Akron on Saturday evening while donning the polarizing neon jerseys. The final score read MSU 52 and the Zips … zip.

Head coach Mel Tucker described the mood in the locker room after last week’s win over Western Michigan as “very mature.” He said that the team knew they needed to be better and said that the biggest improvements would come between weeks one and two.

“We are very realistic in our locker room with our guys,” said Tucker. “We know it’s going to all be about how we show up.”

Akron may not be the greatest measuring stick for judging improvement for a team with goals as lofty as MSU, but the Spartans did impose its will against the Zips. The offensive line created lanes for Jalen Berger and Jarek Broussard all game and the backs took advantage.

Berger rushed for over 100 yards for the second straight game and found the end zone three times. His strength was highlighted on a run in the first quarter when he broke a tackle while his facemask was being ripped down.

Broussard added two touchdowns of his own and 81 yards rushing. 

“I feel like we compliment each other really well,” Broussard said about the running back rotation. “There’s kinda like no drop off in my point of view.”

Kendell Brooks as a standout on defense. Brooks has taken the place of the injured Xavier Henderson at safety. He has played with a controlled anger that is taken out on opposing receivers and backs. Brooks ended Akron’s first possession of the game with a punishing hit and forced fumble on a streaking TJ Banks. 

Brooks finished with seven total tackles and a multitude of big hits. He even showed some ball skills in coverage with an athletic pass break-up.

“You gotta practice how you play,” Brooks said. “You never know when your name is going to be called.”

“He has the size and he’s a physical player,” Tucker said about Brooks. “It’s just a matter of training and learning the scheme. I give a lot of credit to him because he’s a competitor and he works.”

Quarterback DJ Irons moved the ball effectively against the MSU defense before he left with an injury. Irons completed nine of his 13 passes for 117 yards and rushed for 36 yards. Akron led in time of possession and out-gained MSU in the first quarter.

The defense would settle in and set the tone of the ball game. Akron was totally stifled in the third quarter. All the Zips could muster was a single first down and a total of negative three yards of offense. Cal Haladay was gifted a free-shot to hit quarterback Jeff Undercuffler and he took full advantage. Haladay was not touched by any potential blocker nor seen by Undercuffler and delivered a blow that jarred the ball loose. 

Payton Thorne was not able to find the rhythm he seemed to possess most of last season. He was pulled in the third quarter due to the lopsided score, but prior to his departure he completed 18 of his 28 attempts for 212 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Thorne seemed to be unsure of himself during most of the game and was visibly frustrated.

“I’m really tired of throwing the ball high,” said Thorne. “It’s pissing me off.”

Michigan State has a major test next weekend when it travels to Seattle to take on Washington. That game will kickoff at 4:30 EST on Sept. 17.