EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – After closing out the Nebraska game with a 62-yard punt return for a touchdown Michigan State’s Jayden Reed did again. Only this time it was on the Spartans’ very first drive of the game against Western Kentucky. Oh, and it was 26 yards longer.
Reed’s 88-yard punt return for a touchdown is now the fourth-longest in program history and it sparked the Spartans’ offense. With it as well he became the third player in MSU’s history to return two punts for touchdowns in a season since Bill Simpson in 1972, and before him, James Ellis in 1951.
The redshirt junior wide receiver also scored a 46-yard touchdown later in the first quarter to give MSU a commanding 21-3 lead over the Hilltoppers.
Mel Tucker’s ‘healthy dose of productive anger’ in the Spartans’ practice this week, after not having a single first down in the second half against Nebraska, showed in the first half against Western Kentucky.
When Reed wasn’t making plays in the endzone Kenneth Walker III was. Walker didn’t have a single rushing touchdown against Nebraska, but in the first half alone against the Hilltoppers, he’d accumulate three. A 5-yard run in the first, followed by a 5-yard run in the second, and a 3-yard run with 2:39 to play before the half to give MSU a 35-16 lead.
Week in and week out Walker continues to be one of the most dominant running backs in the nation and for a third time this season, he rushed for over 100 yards in a game.
Payton Thorne would get in on the rushing party as well. With :41 on the clock before halftime, the sophomore quarterback decided to keep it himself and run it in. It was a great decision by Thorne and his 12-yard touchdown bolstered MSU’s lead 42-16.
MSU hasn’t scored 40 or more points in the first half of a game since September 27, 2014, when it was up 42-7 versus Wyoming.
Western Kentucky’s quarterback Bailey Zappe started to come to life in the fourth quarter. With 13:13 to play he connected with Jerreth Sterns for a 28-yard touchdown and the Hilltoppers would also complete the two-point conversion to make it a 45-24 game.
Then, with 4:46 to play, he’d find Joey Beljan for a 1-yard touchdown to cut MSU’s lead to 14. It was a rough drive for the Spartans defensively. Linebacker Cal Haladay was ejected for targeting and on the next play Angelo Grose received a penalty for pass interference.
No. 17 Michigan State would hold on to beat Western Kentucky 48-31. The Spartans improve to 5-0 and will now travel to Rutgers next Saturday. A noon kickoff on Big Ten Network.