'That was a classic'; Michigan State reacts to comeback victory over Michigan

Spartans overcome 16-point second-half deficit to keep Paul Bunyan trophy
Michigan State keeps Paul Bunyan trophy
Posted at 9:36 PM, Oct 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-31 10:31:00-04

EAST LANSING, Mich. — With so much hype and anticipation coming into Saturday's top ten matchup between No. 6 Michigan and No. 8 Michigan State, it seemed almost impossible that the game would live up to it.

But it did.

Saturday's game included almost everything you could ask for: a back-and-forth game, a second-half comeback, a Heisman performance, and for Michigan State fans, Paul Bunyan planting his roots in East Lansing for at least another year.

READ MORE: Kenneth Walker III leads Michigan State's comeback over Michigan

"When you come here, you know the importance of Paul Bunyan," said Spartans quarterback Payton Thorne. "He sits right in our lobby; all year, we see him."

The 37–33 win for the Spartans meant more than just keeping a trophy or beating a rival; it moves the team to 8–0 and puts them squarely in the race for a Big Ten title and even a College Football Playoff appearance.

Michigan State 37, Michigan 33

"It's bigger than the team," added wide receiver Jayden Reed. "It's alumni, fans, everybody in Spartan nation; this one means a lot, you know; we take pride in this game."

In the third quarter, Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara would continue his hot start to the game by finding Mike Sainristill to extend the Michigan lead to 30–14.

Yet, the Spartans didn't panic and would answer with a pair of touchdowns and two-point conversions to knot the game at 30–30.

"There was never a time in the game when we felt like we were out of it," said Head Coach Mel Tucker. "We never felt like we were overmatched; we just felt like we needed to continue to execute better."

It all goes back to the Spartans' motto, "Keep Chopping."

"We had to keep the composure and keep chopping," Reed, who recorded six catches and 80 receiving yards in the win, said. "You've got to have that mentality that you're gonna come out on top regardless, whatever position you're in, and that's in life, too; when things get hard, you got to keep going."

Heisman hopeful and Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III would be that energizer in the comeback, finishing the game with 197 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

"I'm super excited," Walker III laughed after the win. "I'm holding it in right now, but I'm super excited."

The performance comes as his name continues to garner Heisman-trophy conversation.

"I think actions speak louder than words," Reed added about his teammate's performance. "You all saw it out there on the field. I mean, he's the best running back in the nation in my opinion."

Mel Tucker says he needs to be included in that talk after Saturday's effort.

"On that stage, you know, the whole world's watching. You got a chance to see what type of player he is and obviously, any recognition that he's getting for Heisman and things like that is well deserved."

Speaking of Tucker, the win put him into the series' history books as he comes the first Spartans head coach to move to 2–0 in their first two games against the Wolverines.

"That was an epic game," he added. "That was a classic. I mean, that was that was big time. That was a big-time game; this was an honor and a privilege to be a part of."

Michigan State will move up the Top 25 rankings and look to move to 9–0 on the season next week at Purdue.

READ MORE: 'It sucks.' What Michigan players & coaches said after loss to Michigan State

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