With today, July 14, marking 50 days until the 2022 Michigan State football campaign begins, why not look at 50 great moments from last season?
With today, July 14, marking 50 days until the 2022 Michigan State football campaign begins, I figured what would be a better way to get ready than to look back at last year’s campaign?
There were many highs as the Spartans went 11-2 and won the Peach Bowl to end the year. In this series, I picked 50 plays that were “defining moments” from the season.
That being said, so begins the series.
No. 50: Keon Coleman 12-yard TD reception from Payton Thorne
Game No. 11: 56-7 loss at Ohio State
Video clip of the play: https://www.espn.com/video/clip/_/id/32673825
Why No. 50?
This play marked the only touchdown the then-seventh-ranked Spartans scored in a forgettable 56-7 loss against the Ohio State Buckeyes in The Shoe. The game was meant to be two Heisman candidates, C.J. Stroud and Kenneth Walker III, battling out rights for both the trophy and the Big Ten East, but an early injury to the latter derailed the matchup and evidently, his campaign to even go to New York.
While this obviously did not impact the final score or dynamically adjust the season, it prevented Mel Tucker and company from an embarrassing shutout. The Spartans would lick their wounds from this loss, and this play kickstarted the healing process.
This loss humbled Michigan State, but it also showed the future, with true freshman Keon Coleman recording his first career touchdown. As it turns out, this would be Coleman’s only touchdown of 2021. Without this, MSU would have been unable to boast the stat of Coleman being the first player since Heisman winner Charlie Ward to record a touchdown and score a basket in the same academic year for an AP top-10 team. Niche stat, yes, but can the school down the road claim that?
Speaking of stats, this also contributed to Payton Thorne’s school record season in terms of touchdown passes, providing my final justification to add this to the list.
Also, with this as the first part of the series, I would like to include a few of my Honorable Mentions that just missed the cut.
Elijah Collins’ 20-yard TD reception vs. Youngstown State: This was a great chance to see Eli Collins back in action after COVID-19 took out his 2020 campaign, but in a 28-point blowout victory, this was just icing on the cake. Additionally, Collins got injured on this play and would miss a few games.
Xavier Henderson’s interception of Youngstown State QB Demeatric Crenshaw: This was a highlight reel play that prevented a likely score, but, as stated before, this was a 28-point win for the Spartans. Considering the year our defensive backs had, this was a bright spot for sure, but not a defining moment.
Angelo Grose and Ronald Williams’ interceptions of Miami QB D’Eriq King: Both of these plays were impactful in that one effectively ended the half and the other ended the game. At the same time, the Grose interception did not lead to any points while the Williams pick was not the most impactful defensive play that game, as you will learn later. This game was also not that close at the end, with the final margin being 21 points in favor of MSU.
Payton Thorne’s 32-yard TD run and Kenneth Walker III’s 14-yard TD run vs. Purdue: Both of these plays were overlooked as the Spartans were upset by the Purdue Spoiler, I mean, Boilermakers. While the Thorne play was exciting and the Walker touchdown contributed to his Maxwell and Doak Walker Award-winning year, neither defined the success of the Spartan football program for 2021 or the future.
Jalen Nailor’s 50-yard reception against Pitt: While this play was put on loop when it occurred and when Jalen Nailor was drafted by Minnesota, this play did not impact the final score in this game. This was a “wow” moment, but not impactful to the game. MSU would not get points on this drive after a missed 33-yard field goal, and Pittsburgh would punt the ball away on the ensuing possession. In fact, the Spartans would not score the rest of the half after this play while Pitt would record another touchdown. If I were to choose, this play’s “wow” factor alone would most likely make it No. 51 on this list. To the Nailor fans out there, he will be brought up multiple times before this list is finished, don’t you worry.