Day 11 of this Michigan State football series is in Miami for an early season game, where an early play would change the course of the game and the season.
Welcome to day 11 of the series, today we highlight an early season matchup and forced turnover that helped the Spartans ride into Miami and emerge victorious. This is also the first play from the Miami game mentioned in my series, which is fitting, as it is the first positive play for the Spartans in this crucial early-season victory.
No. 40: Jeff Pietrowski forced fumble on D’Eriq King
It was the first of two Michigan State forced fumbles on the day, coming on the first offensive drive for the Hurricanes.
Why No. 40?
This play could not have come at a more crucial time for the Michigan State football team, as King’s run would have placed them into easy field goal range.
While the Spartans would win this game by 21 points, this was courtesy of a 21-point flurry in the fourth quarter. Instead, all of Miami’s momentum in the first half was seemingly erased. The ‘Canes looked to be en route to an easy scoring drive to set the tone against the Spartans, but instead, they lost the ball, and the game turned into a slugfest for three quarters.
The Spartans came to play in Miami, as the offense put up over 35 points, Kenneth Walker ran for over 170 yards, Payton Thorne threw 4 touchdown passes, and the defense forced four turnovers while the offense never gave away the ball. This play was a sign of things to come in both this game and the season for the Mel Tucker-led team.
When I re-watched this play while creating the list, I could not help but laugh at it. Pietrowski makes an excellent tackle on the King scramble, ripping the ball free. After that, it turns into a scrum for the ball, deflecting off a few players and ending at a Miami receiver’s feet. After looking at it for a second, the receiver dives but by then Crouch is already on top of it.
You cannot look at this play and tell me that the Spartans did not have some sort of luck on their sideline during their 2021 games like this. Whether it is a rabbit’s foot, the ashes of a Mel Tucker Colorado contract extension, or divine intervention, I would like to request that this luck remains on the Spartans’ side of the field for the rest of the decade, or preferably, forever. I’m not picky.
Statistically, this was Jeff Pietrowski’s first of three forced fumbles on the campaign, contributing to his season where he ranked second in the Big Ten in forced fumbles. For Quavaris Crouch, it was his only fumble recovery of the season. While I am looking forward to seeing what Aaron Brule and Jacoby Windom can do in the green and white, Crouch made a lot of crucial plays at the right time for the Spartans in his only year here.
This is another play where I believe it is very impactful to the season but I cannot rate it higher based on “what-ifs.” Instead, this is a first-drive turnover in a three-possession win for the Spartans. At the time of the game and immediately after, I would have rated this much higher, but games like Nebraska, Michigan, and a bowl game (against some random school that lost to Western Michigan) were yet to play out how they did.
If you want a hint for tomorrow, I will be looking back at last season’s home opener for the last time on this list.