50 defining moments from the 2021 Michigan State football season: No. 7

Michigan State's Kenneth Walker III dives for extra yards as Nebraska's Quinton Newsome closes in during overtime on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.210925 Msu Nebraska 253a
Michigan State's Kenneth Walker III dives for extra yards as Nebraska's Quinton Newsome closes in during overtime on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.210925 Msu Nebraska 253a /

Only a week remains until Michigan State football is back. Today, I will look at the most underrated Kenneth Walker III play of the 2021 season.

Welcome back to the 44th article of 50 defining moments of the 2021 Michigan State football season. Naturally, that means this is moment No. 7. This will be the last week of the series and I have appreciated all of the support for the series thus far. Kenneth Walker III was responsible for many memorable moments in his one year as a Spartan, and I feel today’s moment is overlooked.

Before we begin, I would like to give thanks. When creating this idea, I reached out to a few of my close friends and family members. The biggest help I had when discussing this list and where to rank the top plays was from my friend Owen Oszust. He works for Woodward Sports, among others, and his Twitter account contains most of his works. If you have not already, I recommend following him. The link above takes you right to his account.

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. 7: Kenneth Walker III’s 23-yard overtime run vs. Nebraska

Why No. 7?

This is the highest-rated play of the season that did not give the Spartans the ball or points, and for good reason. After being bottled up all day, Kenneth Walker III capitalized on momentum from Chester Kimbrough’s interception to give Michigan State football and Jay Johnson a lot less stress in overtime.

On this play, Kenneth Walker lines up to take the snap in the Wildcat formation. Walker runs towards his right and has zero room, with the offensive line pushed back two yards on the snap. Naturally, he bounces to the left and finds a tiny crease behind Connor Heyward. Walker does not hesitate to capitalize, taking the crease and sprinting through. Heyward barely holds the block long enough, but a diving effort by a Cornhusker was not enough.

Defensively, the play breaks down like a novice playing Madden, with multiple Cornhusker unsuccessfully diving at the elusive Walker. To top the play off, Walker trucks through a would-be tackler but cannot keep his speed and balance, unable to avoid being brought down from behind at the Nebraska 2-yard-line.

This was an amazing play. Walker should have lost a yard or two or gotten to the line of scrimmage on this play in the best-case scenario. Instead, this was nearly a house call. Walker broke through arm tackles and trucked defenders on this play, making it one of his best and severely underappreciated.

Walker had been bottled up all night by the Cornhuskers. They refused to give the Spartan any room to play with. Before this play, Walker was sitting at 16 carries for 38 yards. This hyper-fixation on Walker resulted in the only other Spartan offensive touchdown of the night, highlighted in moment No. 22.

This play defies most of the logic of this game. Michigan State football had added zero first downs to their statistics in the second half, and the K9 factor had seemed to have been removed from the game. Additionally, the wildcat formation had been extremely unsuccessful for the Spartans both before and after this moment. Despite the success of Walker in the run game in 2021, the wildcat did not add to Walker’s statistics in the slightest. That I can remember, nearly every wildcat play besides this netted no more than eight yards. This was a moment where the stars aligned for the Spartans. The number seven is meant to be a lucky number, so the moment falling here is perfect, while also completely unplanned.

This play has a few people who deserve some credit. I have been praising the offensive line a lot recently, but this was not their best moment. Instead, Heyward can take the blocking praise. Sprinting across the formation, Heyward was able to latch on to a defender and hold his block long enough for Walker to find a crease from his block and then capitalize with these 23 yards.

Walker is the only other player deserving praise for this moment. He completely made this play, flipping the feel of overtime completely. When Kimbrough intercepted Martinez on third down, it gave the Spartans more hope. Walker turned that hope into a near guarantee of Michigan State being victorious.

When I think of defining moments for the Michigan State football season, this was one of them. Walker flipped the narrative of the second-half Spartan offense and powered them to victory on the energy created by the turnover.

That being said, why only No. 7? To begin, the Spartans started their overtime possession within kicker Matt Coghlin’s range. While not automatic, Coghlin was having a resurgent fifth year with the team and could have easily sent in a 42-yarder to send Michigan State football off in style. Additionally, Walker coming just short of the goal line on such an amazing play almost makes me disappointed in the outcome. He got so close, but the Nebraska defender was just able to catch up with him. I know that I was spoiled last year when I am nitpicking about our running back not scoring (on a season where he provided 19 touchdowns) in this article.

This play fits the bill for nearly everything needed for a defining moment, but a few other plays were able to edge them out with their impact.

Statistically, this was yet another of Walker’s many rushes over 20 yards. It was by far his longest rush of the game. There is not much more to write about this, as Walker was shut down by the Cornhusker defense this game, failing to record a touchdown. I do not have the facts in front of me, but this may be one of the longest Spartan plays in overtime that did not result in a touchdown if that counts for anything.

The lack of a touchdown paved way for another moment to slide in front of it, as that moment will be featured in tomorrow’s edition of this series.

Next. Predicting every statistical leader for MSU football. dark