Cam’s Corner: Takeaways from MSU’s Shutout of the Zips


Jalen Berger celebrates touchdown vs Akron. Sept. 10, 2022/Photo credit: LeAnn Espinoza

Cameron McClarren, Sports Broadcasting Assistant

The Michigan State Spartans defeated the Akron Zips on Saturday night with a dominant performance on the ground while answering some of the questions that were waged about the defense. With over 250 yards on the ground and the defense forcing five Akron turnovers, the Spartans improved to 2-0 on the season for the second consecutive year. 

Here are three takeaways from Michigan State’s 52-0 thrashing of Akron. 

Win(dmon and) Co. 

With Michigan State losing two defensive starters in the 35-13 win over Western Michigan last Friday, there were some questions that would need to be answered heading into Saturday’s game against Akron. 

Losing linebacker Darius Snow and safety Xavier Henderson, not only meant losing two defensive captains, but losing two impact players who are not afraid to bring the physicality. 

The biggest question heading into Saturday: who, alongside Jacoby Windmon, would be the difference maker on defense?

Insert Kendell Brooks. 

After a good showing against the Broncos that included five tackles and a forced fumble, Brooks would have a performance of his own collecting seven tackles, including three solo tackles, and a forced fumble on Akron’s first drive of the game. Brooks was also willing to increase the physicality throughout the game, providing a much-needed spark on defense as the Spartans were outgained by the Zips in the first quarter, ultimately giving up 174 yards in the first half. 

Windmon would follow his Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week award-winning performance from last week with another impressive showing. Windmon finished with five tackles along with three forced fumbles and 1.5 sacks. The Spartan defense finished with five forced fumbles and five sacks against the Zips. 

MSU’s defense proved themselves against Akron. The Spartans won the turnover battle while also holding the Zips to 22 total rushing yards. Saturday was the first shutout for the Spartans since the 2019 season when they defeated Rutgers at SHI Stadium 27-0. After two games against mid-major opponents, the Spartans have shown that they are capable of playing defensively sound football. Next week will be the first major test if they want to make a splash in the Big Ten East. 

Thunder and lightning

The Spartans may have just developed the running back room into a two-headed monster and if you’re reading this it’s too late. With some deliberation, I believe the Spartans running back rotation can be labeled as follows: Thunder and lightning. 

After Jalen Berger stole the show against the Broncos last week, Jarek Broussard finally worked his way into the running back rotation and did so with ease amassing 81 yards on 15 carries. Broussard scored his first touchdown as a Spartan on MSU’s first drive of the game. The Spartans would go on to score six rushing touchdowns on the night. 

Berger broke the 100-yard rushing plateau for the second straight game averaging 6 yards a carry and providing three of MSU’s six rushing touchdowns. Berger is averaging almost seven yards a carry through his first two games as a Spartan. The Wisconsin transfer averaged less than five yards per carry for the Badgers in seven career games. 

Berger (thunder) has shown his importance to the running back corps by being the gritty downhill runner that has speed when in the open field. Broussard (lightning) showed Spartan fans the same flare and quick-cut ability that Kenneth Walker III displayed during his award-winning season in 2021. With both Berger and Broussard splitting the carries, the Spartans were able to find their stride on offense as quarterback Payton Thorne was able to find his rhythm later in the game. 

The passing attack

Though the running game was a bright spot against Akron, it was still another questionable day through the air for Payton Thorne. After an uncharacteristic game against Western Michigan last week, Thorne had some struggles through the air against Akron. Before being replaced in the second half as the Spartans were cruising, Thorne threw 18 completions for 212 yards with two interceptions. Not good, not bad. 

A third of Thorne’s yards came later in the first half as the Spartans were driving down the field with under a minute left. Thorne threw 54 of his 160 first half passing yards on the last drive of the half including a great throw to Keon Coleman on fourth down to set up a Jack Stone field goal with one second left in the half. 

The Spartans lone passing touchdown came from the arm of Noah Kim who threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Tre Mosley to push the Spartan lead to 31 early in the third quarter. Kim came in to replace Thorne after he took a massive hit on one of his interceptions and completed both of his two pass attempts. 

As the Spartans make the trip to the west coast this week, the passing game will need some repair if they want to have a more balanced attack against a power-five team in Washington. The PAC-12 has been getting ripped on lately in the news and they would love nothing more than to spoil a Big Ten team’s parade into the pacific time zone. If the Spartans want to continue their perfect start to the season, they will have to be a lot better through the air and do so a lot earlier. 

Michigan State will be back in action next weekend as they travel to Seattle to take on the University of Washington. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time.