50 defining moments from the 2021 Michigan State football season: No. 17

Oct 9, 2021; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Michigan State Spartans running back Kenneth Walker III (9) carries the ball past Rutgers Scarlet Knights defensive lineman Ifeanyi Maijeh (88) during the first half at SHI Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 9, 2021; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Michigan State Spartans running back Kenneth Walker III (9) carries the ball past Rutgers Scarlet Knights defensive lineman Ifeanyi Maijeh (88) during the first half at SHI Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /

Only 17 days remain until Michigan State football resumes. Today’s moment is the longest rush in Spartan history, courtesy of Kenneth Walker III.

Welcome back to the 34th edition of 50 defining moments from the 2021 Michigan State football season. This is moment No. 17 and the final moment from Michigan State’s victory over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

As he had all year, Kenneth Walker III provides the entertainment and is the feature of this moment.

For those of you who missed yesterday’s article, please click here. If you would like to look at previous articles of this series, feel free to scroll through my writing profile.

No. 17: Kenneth Walker III’s 94-yard TD run vs. Rutgers

Why No. 17?

This was, as mentioned above, the longest play of the Spartan season. Additionally, it is easily the most dynamic play by Walker last season. Also, can anyone forget the iconic moments from this run? Juking defenders out of their cleats, having three or four moments where you are thinking that he must be done, and dapping up Jalen Nailor at the end? What a moment.

By this point in the ball game, Michigan State had most of the momentum. Rutgers’ fast start had worn off and the Spartans held an eight-point advantage due to Jalen Nailor’s three highlight reel moments (Nos. 23, 37, and 44, respectively). After a deep Rutgers punt, the Scarlet Knights hoped to spark some momentum by forcing a quick three-and-out. Kenneth Walker III decided much differently.

On this play, Walker bolts up the middle after an excellent push by the offensive line. He then cuts up and to the left, shocking the pursuing defender who misbalances and falls, just failing to put a hand on Walker’s feet. Nailor does just enough in the blocking game so that the corner covering him also comes up short on their attempt at a diving tackle.

At this point, Walker is at the MSU 28 and is surely dead to rights, with a defender having clear sights on K9. The defender slightly over-pursues and has to stop his momentum, leading to a flimsy arm tackle that barely slows a juking Walker down. Walker turns slightly due to the arm tackle, ingeniously using the momentum to cut back to the sideline. Jayden Reed is able to cut off his defender and blocks the corner out long enough for K9 to breeze by. At this point, Walker is finally past the sea of Scarlet Knights, and just has another 55 yards to run.

After guiding Nailor to his other side to have the ability to cut off any defender trying to run them down, Walker looks up with 15 yards to the endzone and sees his teammate stride for stride with him. In a “why not?” moment, Walker and Nailor dap each other up mid-stride.

That was easily the longest play write-up I have had and likely will have for the series. Just writing this and rewatching it, I was waiting for the ending of the play to be slightly different. There are so many moments that just appear as if Walker could go out of bounds or just could not get past the next defender. Despite actively knowing this is a touchdown, the logical side of me says that “this cannot happen, he will go down.” Also, it is hilarious to watch Walker make three separate Rutgers defenders face plant in an 11-yard radius. Including the chop block at the line of scrimmage, I count four Scarlet Knights who spent part of their play on the SHI Stadium turf.

The offensive line deserves a lot of credit here, and Walker was untouched when running through the front seven here. None of this play happens if a single member of Chris Kapilovic’s crew took a play off, and their hard work gave the Spartans these six points and the MSU rushing record for a single play.

The next group that deserves the credit is the receiving corps. Reed and Nailor did an amazing job blocking the Scarlet Knights out of the play. Considering how long this play took to develop, their patience and resilience are even more amazing. Tyler Hunt also came flying down the field to dissuade any attempt to catch up to Walker, enabling the Nailor-Walker handshake. Reed gets away with a questionable holding on the Rutgers defensive back’s shoulder, but the call of the field was a clean touchdown, and I’m not protesting.

Finally, the star of this play is Walker. He created so many opportunities on this play and made something out of an already great 20-yard run. This play should have given the Spartans breathing room, but instead, they got a touchdown. That is the Walker effect for you. Any given play on any Saturday with him in the backfield could be amazing. The little things like using the momentum from an arm tackle amaze me, and I am looking forward to seeing his career as a Seattle Seahawk pan out.

This play was the longest and arguably most dynamic play of the year. Unfortunately, it came in a game against Rutgers. With the quality opponents that Michigan State football faced in 2021, this “wow” moment cannot even break the top 15. The Scarlet Knights had already finished their scoring for the day and this just added to an 18-point MSU victory. That margin is the only thing holding this play back from being my best play of the season.

Statistically, I can talk about this today, unlike yesterday. This play was the longest of Walker’s Spartan career (he had a 96-yard run as a freshman at Wake Forest) as well as the longest in Michigan State football history. This also helped contribute to Walker’s 233-yard performance against the Scarlet Knights, the third of his four games where he topped 170 rushing yards. This was his 10th touchdown from scrimmage on the campaign and his ninth rushing touchdown.

For those eager for tomorrow’s highlight, Reed makes one of his best plays of the season.

Next. 5 All-American candidates for MSU football. dark