East Lansing, Michigan – Kenneth Walker took the vote for the Heisman Trophy and humbly declined it, flicking questions about the coveted prize as if they were midfield players trying to deal with it.
Walker ran for 197 yards and five touchdowns, helping No.8 Michigan State’s No.6 Michigan lead 37-33 to a thrilling win on Saturday.
“I don’t feel like it was Heisman’s moment,” said Walker, who started the day leading the nation in a hurry, and finished it with a 1,194-yard dash and 15 touchdowns. “But it was just a fantastic win for the team.”
Moving Wake Forest had a lot to do with it.
The Spartans (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) fell by nine in the first half and 30-14 with 6:47 left in the third quarter before rallying as Walker boosted his chances of picking the best player in college football.
Walker’s fifth touchdown—23 yards—lifted the Spartans to a 37-33 lead with 5:08 remaining. He had 8.6 yards, an average that rose thanks to the 58-yard touchdown that helped the Spartans go into a 30-telegraph early in the fourth quarter.
“This was a huge stage, the whole world was watching, and you had the chance to see what kind of player he is,” said coach Mel Tucker. “Any recognition he receives for the consideration of Heisman is well deserved.”
The Wolverines (7-1, 4-1) forced a final kick and held the ball at 33 with 1:15 with no timeouts left.
After a ruthless penalty kick from passers-by gave them the ball into midfield, Michigan State cornerback Charles Brantley wrapped up the win by catching a floating pass from Cady McNamara.
“That stings,” McNamara said. “We have to respond. Our backs are on the wall now.”
McNamara threw for 383 yards and two touchdowns, but his interception was costly, and new quarterback JJ McCarthy also lost a fumble in a delivery attempt in the fourth quarter.
“It wasn’t a smooth exchange,” said Harbow, who said McNamara was “working on something,” when the new student replaced him.
The competitors were in the same field with 7-0 or better records for the first time, matching the top 10 for the first time since 1964.
Michigan State’s win puts the program in contention for the Big Ten Conference Championship and possibly a place in the College Football Playoff.
“We’re on the hunt,” Tucker said.
Michigan’s loss left Jim Harbaugh with a record 3–4 against Michigan State as a coach, adding to the pressure on him to claim his first win over Ohio State No. 5 next month.
The Spartans had a few calls and reviews their way, including one that overturned Payton Thorne’s late first-half flop that Aidan Hutchinson reclaimed in the end zone, but Harbaugh refused to publicly criticize him.
“I expressed my thoughts during the match,” he said.
The Wolverines started strong, going 23-14 after an enjoyable first half and by 16 points in the third quarter.
In their first drive, McNamara threw a 93-yard touchdown pass for former East Lansing High School star Andrell Anthony. After Thorne’s second interception, the Wolverines settled on Jake Moody’s first four field goals and advanced 10-0 late in the first quarter.
Walker bounced outside, and found a hole to run through for 27 yards in the first play of the second quarter.
Tucker went on to get her fourth and one near midfield and Thorne’s out-of-play pass to Jalen Naylor set Locker up 8 yards from TD and a 14-13 lead.
Anthony got a 17-yard pass from TD and Moody kicked 35 yards in the closing seconds of the first half. McNamara pinned another TD on the third pass, and a 19-yard find to Mike Senrestel made him 30-14 with 6:47 left.
Tucker went for him again in fourth late in the third as Thorne threw a 28-yard pass to Jayden Reed to climb up Walker’s third touchdown.
Michigan State was zero-for-7 in third until converting three in a row on one drive, including Walker’s 58-yard touchdown track.