50 defining moments from the 2021 Michigan State football season: No. 16

Michigan State Spartans wide receiver Jayden Reed (1) makes a catch against Michigan Wolverines defensive back Daxton Hill (30) during second half action to set up a touchdown Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021.Msu Mich
Michigan State Spartans wide receiver Jayden Reed (1) makes a catch against Michigan Wolverines defensive back Daxton Hill (30) during second half action to set up a touchdown Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021.Msu Mich /

Today marks the fifth straight week with this daily Michigan State football series, and Jayden Reed’s clutch fourth-down conversion is perfect to celebrate.

Welcome to day 35 of my 50 defining moments from the 2021 Michigan State football season. Today is moment No. 16 and one of Jayden Reed’s best plays from last season.

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. 16: Jayden Reed’s fourth-down conversion against Michigan

Why No. 16?

This play is the first one in a series of three plays that sparked the Spartans back into the game against the Michigan Wolverines. The other two each have their own moments, Nos. 25 and 28, if you have missed them. This was obviously the longest of the three, but there are many more reasons for it being the highest rated.

On this play, Jayden Reed lines up in the slot against future first-round pick Dax Hill. Michigan sends a zone blitz that is heavy on the offensive right, and the blitzing backers and isolated defensive lineman are held off long enough for Thorne to face no immediate pressure and release an accurate ball. Hill appeared to be cheating a seam route, and Reed’s corner route gives him enough separation to make a falling down catch with Hill draped over the Michigan State product. Reed ends just short of the goal line, and Michigan State’s up-tempo offense scores on the next play.

Much like DJ Turner’s situation I wrote about for another massive Reed play a few days ago, Hill was in a great position, but Thorne made a perfect throw and Reed a perfect catch. Plays like these make it comical that Big Ten pundits routinely rank Thorne outside of the top three for best quarterbacks in the conference when previewing the 2022 season. Thorne, Reed, and Michigan State football are going to give the Spartan faithful a treat if they can continue to make plays like this.

The first group getting credit is the offensive line. They diagnosed the zone blitz perfectly, with Kenneth Walker doing just enough to slow down the last man. Walker’s failed chop block made the blitzing Wolverine hesitate, leaving a clear line of sight for Thorne to throw the ball. The rest of the Wolverines, including an overhyped Heisman finalist, barely make an impact on the play. This is thanks to the Spartan offensive line.

The next person receiving credit is Jay Johnson. After burning Michigan with deceptive play action on their last fourth down, Johnson calls a regular pass with devastating effectiveness. Johnson did not try to be too “cute” for the situation, he let his playmakers make a big-time play.

Finally, the high school turned collegiate teammates of Thorne and Reed made an excellent throw and catch combo. Thorne did not panic at the sight of the Wolverines sending a few to hit him, he stood tall and let the play develop. After how his game had started, this was an excellent moment for Thorne to bounce back. Reed was extraordinary as always, looking the ball in and not being impacted by Hill’s attempt to break the play up. His route running was also superb, giving just enough space for Thorne to let the ball fly. Full marks all around for the whole squad.

If this play was so excellent, how is it not in my top 15? Simple. The Spartans were starting their comeback and still had many more plays to make. Any comeback is not resolved in one play, and this spark sets the stage for the upcoming plays I will highlight over the next few weeks.

This is the highest rated in the three-play series I mentioned earlier because the other two would not happen without this conversion. Additionally, this had more of a “wow” factor than the other two plays, for obvious reason.

I could write more on this, but there are quite a few more plays from the Michigan game coming to highlight the game on.

Statistically, this was part of Reed’s 80-yard day on six catches against the Wolverines. For Thorne, this contributed to his 196 passing yards on 19 completions. This is a play that does not stick out as an outlier in the box score, unlike yesterday but is one of the most impactful on the season.

For those eager for tomorrow’s play, it was the tone setter of the 2021 Michigan State football season.

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