Kenneth Walker III leads Michigan State's comeback over Michigan

Spartans keep Paul Bunyan Trophy after second half charge
Michigan State stuns Michigan, 37-33
Posted at 4:06 PM, Oct 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-31 10:30:23-04

EAST LANSING, Mich. — For the first time since 1964, Michigan and Michigan State would square off each ranked in the top ten.

In front of a packed and energetic Spartan Stadium, Michigan would strike first, just three plays into the team's opening drive as Cade McNamara would throw to East Lansing high school alum Andrel Anthony for a 93-yard touchdown.

Michigan State 37, Michigan 33

It would give Michigan a 7-0 lead just under four minutes into the game.

On the first play of the second quarter, Michigan State would get on the board with a 27-yard touchdown run from runningback, Kenneth Walker III to cut the deficit, 10-7.

And it would be Walker, who entered the game averaging 142 yards per game, stepping up for the Spartans to keep them in the game early as he found the endzone from eight yards out to give the Spartans a 14-13 lead with 7:16 left before the half.

However, on the ensuing Michigan drive, freshman quarterback J.J. McCarthy would come in the game and throw a 17-yard touchdown to Andrel Anthony yet again, who high pointed the ball and secured a miraculous catch in the endzone for his second touchdown grab of the first half.

With just seconds left in the first half, Jake Moody would connect on his third field goal try of the opening half, this time from 35 yards to give the Wolverines a 23-14 lead at the break.

Hassan Haskins
Michigan running back Hassan Haskins (25) stiff arms Michigan State's Angelo Grose (15) during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

The Wolverines offense would have no problem extending the lead in the second half as McNamara connected with Mike Sainristil for 19 yards and a touchdown to make it 30-14 with 6:47 left in the third quarter.

But the Spartans weren't going away lightly.

Just under three minutes later, they would respond as Kenneth Walker III scored from two yards out for his third score of the game to cap an eight-plan, 75-yard drive for the Spartans.

The touchdown run would cut the deficit to 30-22 after a successful two-point conversion and that would remain the score after three quarters of play.

Kenneth Walker III
Michigan State's Kenneth Walker III celebrates his touchdown against Michigan during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

In the fourth quarter, it'd be Walker III again, breaking another big touchdown run, this time from 58 yards with 12:29 left in the game for his fourth score of the afternoon.

On the ensuing two-point conversion, Payton Thorne would find Jayden Reed to knot the game at 30 all.

Tension and nerves would build throughout the fourth quarter as Michigan would settle for a 36-yard field goal from Moody, his fourth in as many attempts to make it 33-30 Wolverines with 9:20 left.

After an Aiden Hutchinson sack, Michigan would get the ball back after a Spartans punt.

However, on the first play of the drive, J.J. McCarthy would fumble and Jacub Panasiuk would recover for Michigan State to give the Spartans possession at Michigan's 41-yard line.

On the seventh play of the drive, Walker struck yet again as the offensive line opened a gaping hole for a 23-yard touchdown run, his fifth of the game.

The Spartans would take their first since the second quarter, 37-33 with 5:08 left in regulation as the 76,549 in attendance at Spartan Stadium went into a frenzy.

The Wolverines would get the ball back with 1:15 left in regulation but on the second play of the drive, Cade McNamara's pass was intercepted by Charles Brantley.

After a kneel-down, Michigan State would come away with a 37-33 victory to keep the Paul Bunyan Trophy and its College Football Playoff hopes alive, improving to a perfect 8-0 on the season.

The Spartan's 16-point second half comeback is the biggest in the series since 2004, when the Wolverines came from behind to win.

Walker III would finish the game with 197 yards and five touchdowns on 23 carries to lead the way for Michigan State, who were out-gained in total yardage, 552-395.