No. 17 Mich St beats W Kentucky 48-31, best start since 2015

Oct 2, 2021, 8:28 AM | Updated: 9:31 pm
Michigan State's Jayden Reed, left, returns a punt for a touchdown as teammate Ben VanSumeren (13) ...

Michigan State's Jayden Reed, left, returns a punt for a touchdown as teammate Ben VanSumeren (13) blocks against Western Kentucky during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

(AP Photo/Al Goldis)

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State’s Jayden Reed planted his right foot in the turf and juked to his left, cut back across the field and sprinted up the sideline untouched for an 88-yard touchdown off a punt return to score on special teams for the third straight week.

Reed also had a touchdown reception in the first half, giving him multiple scores for the fourth straight week, to help the 17th-ranked Spartans build a 26-point lead and they went on to beat Western Kentucky 48-31 on Saturday night.

“He can do it all,” coach Mel Tucker said.

Reed had 285 all-purpose yards, including 127 yards receiving and 63 yards on kickoff returns.

Kenneth Walker ran for 126 yards, a week after being held to 61 yards rushing in an overtime win over Nebraska, and three touchdown in the first half to keep his name in the early conversation for the Heisman Trophy candidates.

“That is a dream of mine to win the Heisman,” Walker said. “I had that in my notes on March 8th.”

The Spartans (5-0) have won their first five games for the first time since starting 8-0 in 2015, when they ended up earning a spot in the College Football Playoff.

The Hilltoppers (1-3) moved the ball through the air effectively, but settled for three field goals in the first half and struggled to slow down Michigan State until the second half when it was too late.

“They made a lot of explosive plays and we didn’t,” coach Tyson Helton said. “Defensively we couldn’t stop them in the first half and we held them to six points in the second half.”

Reed returned the punt for a touchdown after the opening possession and had 46-yard reception for another score in the first quarter, helping the Spartans take a 21-10 lead. Walker ran for his second and third scores in the second quarter, putting Michigan State ahead 42-16.

“In the first half they were able to do whatever they wanted to do,” Helton said.

Payton Thorne was 20 of 30 for a career-high 327 yards yards and a touchdown for the Spartans. Nailor had career highs with eight catches and 128 yard receiving.

Bailey Zappe, who was 46 of 64 for a career-high 488 yards, threw two touchdown passes early in the fourth quarter to pull Western Kentucky within two touchdowns.

Jerreth Sterns set career highs with 17 catches for 186 yards and had a touchdown reception for the Hilltoppers.

THE TAKEAWAY

Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers can throw the ball effectively, but their defense has been a weakness that has been tough to overcome. They allowed an average of 35.5 points in the previously two games and gave up more than that in the first half alone at Michigan State.

Michigan State: The Spartans have work to do with their pass defense. Zappe, who ranks among the nation’s leaders in passing, was able to make throws all over the field against linebackers and defensive backs that often seemed out of position.

“We’re going to learn a lot from that,” Tucker said. “They’re very explosive on offense. They put a lot of stress on our defense.”

NOTABLE

Michigan State’s 42 points in the first half trailed just the 49 points it scored over the first two quarters in 2014 against Eastern Michigan and the 45 scored in 2017 against Alabama-Birmingham.

YOU’RE OUT

Michigan State linebacker Cal Haladay was ejected early in the fourth quarter for a hit on receiver Jerreth Sterns. Haladay will miss the first half of next week’s game against Rutgers.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Michigan State has a chance to move up some in the AP Top 25 with some ranked teams losing, including No. 15 Texas A&M against Mississippi State.

UP NEXT

Western Kentucky: Hosts UTSA (5-0) on Oct. 9, the Hilltoppers’ first home game since Sept. 2 when Zappe passed for 424 yards and seven touchdowns in a 59-21 win over UT Martin in their opener.

Michigan State: Plays at Rutgers (3-2, 0-2) on Oct. 9, the first of two straight road games before getting an off week to have extra time to prepare for a highly anticipated game against archrival and 14th-ranked Michigan at home Oct. 30.

___

Follow Larry Lage at https://twitter.com/larrylage

___

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://apnews.com/cfbtop25

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Kansas safety O.J. Burroughs (5) breaks up a pass to Iowa State wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson (8)...
Associated Press

Kansas slips past Iowa State 14-11 to stay unbeaten

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Jace Gilbert missed three field goals, including a 37-yarder with a chance to tie the game with under 30 seconds to play as Kansas held off Iowa State 14-11 on Saturday to remain undefeated. At 5-0 overall, this is the Jayhawks’ best start to the season since 2009 and just the […]
16 hours ago
Baylor cornerback Lorando Johnson (11) breaks up a pass intended for Oklahoma State wide receiver B...
Associated Press

No. 9 Oklahoma St. beats No. 16 Baylor 36-25 in B12 rematch

WACO, Texas (AP) — Jaden Nixon returned the second-half kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, and ninth-ranked Oklahoma State beat No. 16 Baylor 36-25 on Saturday in a rematch of last year’s Big 12 championship game. Nixon’s return started a flurry of 39 combined points in the third quarter. He found an open gap in […]
16 hours ago
Penn State running back Nicholas Singleton (10) dives short of the goal line during the first half ...
Associated Press

No. 11 Penn State outlasts Northwestern 17-7 in sloppy game

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Nick Singleton had 21 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown, Penn State’s defense forced three turnovers and the No. 11 Nittany Lions outlasted Northwestern 17-7 on Saturday. Sean Clifford completed 10 of 20 passes for 140 yards with a touchdown and Kaytron Allen added 86 rushing yards on 21 […]
16 hours ago
Associated Press

Franklin sparks UT Martin to 45-28 win over Tennessee Tech

MARTIN, Tenn. (AP) — Freshman Sam Franklin’s 86-yard touchdown run sparked a 24-point burst and UT Martin defeated Tennessee Tech 45-28 on Saturday. Jeremiah Oatsvall threw a 42-yard scoring strike to Heath Price to finish off a five-play, 75-yard drive on the opening possession and Tennessee Tech led 7-0. UT Martin (3-2, 2-0 Ohio Valley […]
16 hours ago
Associated Press

Lankford’s sparks Alabama A&M past Bethune-Cookman, 35-27

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — Xaiver Lankford threw three second-half touchdown passes and Alabama A&M earned its first win of the season, holding off Bethune-Cookman, 35-27 in a Southwest Conference battle on Saturday afternoon. Donovan Eaglin ran for two touchdowns in the first half to stake the Bulldogs to a 14-0 lead, then capped the scoring […]
16 hours ago
Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa looks to pass against Michigan State during the first half o...
Associated Press

Maryland solid defensively in 27-13 win over Michigan State

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Taulia Tagovailoa threw for 314 yards and a touchdown, and Maryland handed Michigan State its third consecutive loss, 27-13 on Saturday. The Terrapins (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) scored touchdowns on their first two possessions, and the Maryland defense was solid as the Terps passed their first test in what feels […]
16 hours ago
No. 17 Mich St beats W Kentucky 48-31, best start since 2015