GAMEDAY College Football

Michigan State 38, Northwestern 21

By ANDREW SELIGMAN
AP Sports Writer

EVANSTON, Ill. - Kenneth Walker III ran for a career-high 264 yards and a personal-best four touchdowns in an impressive debut with his new team, Michigan State beat Northwestern 38-21 in the season opener.

Walker more than doubled his previous high of 131 yards for Wake Forest in a loss to North Carolina State last season. He never ran for more than three TDs in two years with the Demon Deacons.

Walker set the tone in this one when he broke off a 75-yard touchdown on the game's first play from scrimmage and scored from the 3 on the next possession to make it 14-0.

The Spartans (1-0, 1-0 Big Ten) cruised from there, denying the Wildcats (0-1, 0-1) the payback they were seeking. Northwestern lost in East Lansing last season on the way to a 7-2 mark and its second West division championship in three years.

Payton Thorne, starting over Temple transfer Anthony Russo, threw for 185 yards and one touchdown. The sophomore completed 15 of 26 passes in his second career start.

Michigan State outgained Northwestern 511-400 in total yards and 326-117 in rushing. And the Spartans opened their second season under coach Mel Tucker on a winning note after going 2-5 last year.

Hunter Johnson threw for 283 yards and three touchdowns in his first start for Northwestern since 2019. With Peyton Ramsey starting, Johnson played in two games last year and did not attempt a pass. He beat out former South Carolina starter Ryan Hilinski and senior Andrew Marty for the job this season.

Trey Pugh caught two TDs. But Northwestern lost to Michigan State for the seventh time in the past eight home games.

Walker III had Michigan State fans cheering when he burst 75 yards up the left side for a TD on the game's first possession. And he struck again on the next possession, running it in from the 3 to cap a 74-yard drive after Northwestern's Charlie Kuhbander missed a 44-yard field goal.

Michigan State added to the lead early in the second quarter, aided by Chris Bergin's late hit on Thorne after the quarterback stepped out of bounds at the end of a 16-yard keeper. Thorne connected with Jordon Simmons for a 14-yard TD on the next play to bump the lead to 21-0.

Northwestern scored with a minute left in the half, when Johnson found an open Pugh in the end zone on fourth down at the 1. Walker added 5-yard touchdown in the third, making it 28-7.

Michigan State athletics press release


Scoring Summary
First Quarter MSUNW
MSU TD 14:47 Kenneth Walker III 75 yard TD run (Matt Coghlin Extra Point) 7 0
MSU TD 7:44 Kenneth Walker III 3 yard TD run (Matt Coghlin Extra Point) 14 0
Second Quarter MSUNW
MSU TD 9:45 Jordon Simmons 14 yard TD pass from Payton Thorne (Matt Coghlin Extra Point) 21 0
NW TD 0:59 Trey Pugh 1 yard TD pass from Hunter Johnson (Charlie Kuhbander Extra Point) 21 7
Third Quarter MSUNW
MSU TD 7:06 Kenneth Walker III 5 yard TD run (Matt Coghlin Extra Point) 28 7
Fourth Quarter MSUNW
NW TD 11:17 Trey Pugh 5 yard TD pass from Hunter Johnson (Charlie Kuhbander Extra Point) 28 14
MSU FG 6:04 Matt Coghlin 37 yard field goal 31 14
NW TD 2:27 Stephon Robinson Jr. 14 yard TD pass from Hunter Johnson (Charlie Kuhbander Extra Point) 31 21
MSU TD 1:29 Kenneth Walker III 6 yard TD run (Matt Coghlin Extra Point) 38 21
Team Stats
  Michigan State Northwestern
First downs 23 20
  Rushing 11 10
  Passing 11 10
  Penalty 1 0
3rd Down Efficiency 4-10, 40% 8-20, 40%
4th down efficiency 1-1, 100% 4-5, 80%
Rushes-Yards 37-326 38-117
Passing Yards 185 283
Return Yards 12 75
Completions-Attempts-Int 15-26-0 30-43-0
Sacks-Yards Lost 2-11 4-26
Punts 4 5
Fumbles Lost 1-1 1-0
Penalties - Yards 5-50 6-40
Michigan State Passing
Player Cmp Att Yds TDs Int
P. Thorne 15 25 185 1 0
Northwestern Passing
Player Cmp Att Yds TDs Int
H. Johnson 30 43 283 3 0
Michigan State Rushing
Player Carries Yds Avg TDs
K. Walker III 23 264 11.5 4
P. Thorne 5 28 5.6 0
J. Reed 1 12 12.0 0
H. Joiner 3 12 4.0 0
J. Simmons 5 10 2.0 0
Northwestern Rushing
Player Carries Yds Avg TDs
E. Hull 9 87 9.7 0
A. Clair 4 14 3.5 0
A. Tyus III 8 13 1.6 0
M. Cisco 3 10 3.3 0
S. Robinson Jr. 2 5 2.5 0
M. Washington 1 2 2.0 0
H. Johnson 11 -14 -1.3 0
Michigan State Receiving
Player Rec Yds Avg TDs
J. Reed 5 64 12.8 0
T. Mosley 4 59 14.8 0
C. Heyward 3 28 9.3 0
J. Nailor 2 20 10.0 0
J. Simmons 1 14 14.0 1
Northwestern Receiving
Player Rec Yds Avg TDs
B. Kirtz 7 80 11.4 0
S. Robinson Jr. 5 79 15.8 1
M. Washington 3 32 10.7 0
C. Mangieri 2 27 13.5 0
E. Hull 3 23 7.7 0
T. Pugh 4 18 4.5 2
R. Niro III 2 15 7.5 0
J. Gill 1 9 9.0 0
A. Tyus III 2 4 2.0 0
A. Clair 1 -4 -4.0 0
Michigan State Interceptions
Player Int Yards
Northwestern Interceptions
Player Int Yards
Michigan State Punting
Player Punts Yards Avg
B. Baringer 4 189 47.3
Northwestern Punting
Player Punts Yards Avg
D. Adams 5 195 39.0
Michigan State Punt Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
Northwestern Punt Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
B. Kirtz 1 13 13.0
Michigan State Kick Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
J. Nailor 2 12 6.0
Northwestern Kick Returns
Player Ret Yards Average
C. Azema 3 62 20.7
Michigan State Missed FG
Player Length
M. Coghlin 60
Northwestern Missed FG
Player Length
C. Kuhbander 44
C. Kuhbander 38




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