50 defining moments from the 2021 Michigan State football season: No. 14

Nov 27, 2021; East Lansing, Michigan, USA; Michigan State Spartans wide receiver Jayden Reed (1) makes a touchdown catch against Penn State Nittany Lions cornerback Johnny Dixon (3) during the fourth quarter at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 27, 2021; East Lansing, Michigan, USA; Michigan State Spartans wide receiver Jayden Reed (1) makes a touchdown catch against Penn State Nittany Lions cornerback Johnny Dixon (3) during the fourth quarter at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

Today marks only two weeks left until the 2022 Michigan State football season begins. Jayden Reed’s highlight-reel touchdown is a perfect way to celebrate.

Welcome to my 37th edition of this series recapping the 50 defining moments of the 2021 Michigan State football team. Today marks moment No. 14 in the countdown until the season starts. Jayden Reed was a dynamic player all year, and one of his best plays that will be highlighted today. This moment also shines as one of the most picturesque moments of the entire 2021 college football 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. 14: Jayden Reed’s 20-yard TD catch in the snow vs. PSU

Why No. 14?

This play call was one of desperation. Due to the lovely Michigan weather, the Spartans trotted out their offense for an offensive coordinator’s nightmare: 4th-and-15 with only 20 yards of field and the end zone to work with. While that is bad enough, this play call would have to be made during an active blizzard. While Kenneth Walker III had an amazing game going, a run would be foolish with this much ground to cover. Instead, Payton Thorne was trusted to throw into the swirling winds of said blizzard.

With Thorne attempting a low chance play, is there any doubt that the ball would go to Jayden Reed? After multiple bad throws by Thorne earlier in the game, including a pick six, this was again a story of redemption. The quarterback threw a perfect ball to Reed. He acted like a member of the Michigan State basketball team on this play, boxing out a Penn State defensive back until the perfect moment to jump for the ball. Reed catches the ball despite the swatting breakup attempt from a desperate defender and cradles the ball to his body as the receiver falls to the ground. With both feet down in bounds and the ball not moving an inch, the impossible situation ends in a touchdown.

The offensive line, again, executed this play at an elite level. With the snow on the ground and the brutal weather (I should know, I was at this game, and it took me hours to warm up), any slip or missed assignment from the lineman could easily be excused. Instead, the group stood tall, and Payton Thorne had one of his cleanest pockets of the entire Michigan State football season for this play. This was an excellent rebound after Thorne got slammed to the ground one snap before.

Thorne made an excellent throw, especially with this weather. He had the earlier pick six, as well as nearly throwing one on the first offensive play of the game. As mentioned above, Thorne was hit and hit hard the previous play, but was not nervous or jumpy at all, showing full confidence in his offensive line and settling in the pocket prior to his throw. This ball was completely on target and the only person on the field who had a shot at catching the ball was Jayden Reed.

Jayden Reed’s effort was unparalleled on this play, His box out alone would (and probably did) make Tom Izzo, Draymond Green, and Keon Coleman proud. Then he kept his focus through the desperate attempts to break the ball up and caught the ball against the sidelines at the high point. Then, when gravity finally decided to be a force against the wide out, Reed ensured the ball remained firmly in his grasp. There was no doubt that this play was a touchdown.

This play is one of the best in the entire season. The scenic background of a snow-covered Spartan Stadium made the play pop out even more, almost making the play seem scripted. I barely have to mention the picture of this play for nearly everyone reading this article to know what I am talking about. The beauty of the play is also ironic, considering the wide spread bashing of the physical appearance of the Land Grant Trophy, awarded to the winner of this contest.

Beauty of the play aside, there were a few more moments in the season that impacted the Spartans more. The final margin of victory was only three points, but this was due to a Nittany Lions touchdown with 43 seconds remaining. Additionally, the Spartans would not have entered this game fighting for a chance to compete in a New Year’s Six Bowl without some of the moments that have their own upcoming articles.

I will confirm that this was the third most impactful Jayden Reed play on my list, with two more articles featuring the dynamic player to come. Additionally, this is the last play in the series from the battle for the Land Grant Trophy.

Statistically, this was Reed’s only touchdown of the game as well as his eighth of 10 receiving touchdowns for the 2021 Michigan State football season. For Thorne, this play moved him well into striking distance of Kirk Cousins’s record for passing touchdowns in a season. It was his 24th of the season, tying him with Connor Cook’s 2014 and 2015 campaigns as the second best in Spartan history. Obviously, Cousins’ record would fall in their next game, the Peach Bowl, as highlighted in moment No. 20.

Tomorrow, the moment again comes on fourth down, except this came with the Spartans on defense. Moment No. 13 was indeed unlucky for offensive No. 12 from a certain Michigan State football rival.

Next. 3 burning questions for MSU football's 2022 season. dark