No. 15 Michigan State sputters in 35-13 win over W. Michigan

Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK
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EAST LANSING, Mich. – Payton Thorne capped three straight drives with touchdown passes in the first half and threw for a fourth score in the final quarter to help No. 15 Michigan State pull away and beat Western Michigan 35-13 on Friday night.

The Spartans played well in spurts, but also struggled for long stretches against the Broncos in the opener. After taking a 21-3 lead early in the second quarter, they allowed an average Mid-American Conference team to pull within eight points late in the third quarter.

Michigan State was fortunate Thorne’s uneven performance included four touchdowns to match his career high. He finished 12 of 24 for 233 yards with an interception.

Wisconsin transfer Jalen Berger ran for a career-high 120 yards and a touchdown that gave the Spartans a 28-13 lead with 6:28 remaining. Thorne’s fourth touchdown, a 43-yard pass to Tre Mosley, on the next drive ended any doubt about the outcome.

After a slow start, Thorne threw a short pass to freshman Germie Bernard, whose speed turned the play into a 44-yard touchdown late in the first quarter. Illinois transfer Daniel Barker used only his right hand to catch a 13-yard pass for a score and Keon Coleman ran under a 41-yard pass to put Michigan State ahead 21-3 early in the second quarter.

Western Michigan pulled within 11 points midway through the third quarter, when it converted a fourth-and-1 at its 42 and Sean Tyler ran for a 4-yard touchdown a snap after picking up 45 yards on the ground.

The Broncos made it 21-13 late in the third when Palmer Domschke made a 42-yard kick, but they couldn’t make enough plays on both sides of the ball in the fourth quarter and fell to 1-30 against ranked teams.

INJURY REPORT

Michigan State’s defense took a hit in the first half, losing linebacker Darius Snow and safety Xavier Henderson after both appeared to have injured their right legs.

THE TAKEAWAY

Western Michigan: Jack Salopek had an encouraging first start, completing 21 of 36 passes for 193 yards and running for 61 yards on a draw.

Michigan State: If Snow and Henderson are injured significantly, that will hurt the team’s chances to improve a defense that ranked last against the pass in FBS in 2021.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Spartans likely will slip a little in the poll after a lackluster performance in a game they were favored to win by three touchdowns.

UP NEXT

Western Michigan: Plays at Ball State on Sept. 10 and hosts No. 17 Pittsburgh the following week.

Michigan State: Hosts Akron on Sept. 10 and goes on the road to play Washington in a night game on Sept. 17.

Minnesota football players’ discrimination lawsuit dismissed

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by nine former University of Minnesota football players who were accused of sexual assault in 2016 in a case that roiled the school’s football program.

The lawsuit against the school claimed that the players faced emotional distress and financial damage after being falsely accused of being sex offenders. The players, who were identified in the lawsuit as John Does, sought unspecified damages for willful and malicious discrimination.

A woman alleged up to a dozen football players raped her or watched and cheered at an off-campus party in 2016. None of the players were ever charged.

The university found that 10 football players committed sexual misconduct. Five of them were expelled or suspended for violating student conduct codes, and the others were cleared on appeal.

In their lawsuit, the players alleged that the woman initiated the sexual encounters with players and an underage recruit.

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the lawsuit last week, saying the former players did not prove any of their claims, including allegations of bias by university investigators or pressure from Athletic Director Mark Coyle and former President Eric Kaler, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

David Madgett, an attorney for the players, said Tuesday that they are considering an appeal but have to determine if it makes sense financially and in terms of letting the former players get on with their lives. He said it was disappointing that the outcome was determined by the judge’s version of events and not decided by a jury.

“It’s disappointing to see disputes decided in this way,” Madgett said. “That’s the way things are decided more and more these days. … It’s disappointing you don’t get your day in court.”

When the allegations became public in 2016, players threatened to boycott the team’s trip to the Holiday Bowl. But after a graphic report of the investigation was released, the players agreed to play in the game.

University of Minnesota spokesman Jake Ricker said the school appreciated the judge’s decision affirming the actions taken in the case. He said the university would continue its work focusing on sexual misconduct awareness, prevention and response.

Frank dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, but an appeals court reinstated part of it in 2021 and returned it to Frank.

The players, all of whom are Black, also initially claimed racial discrimination, but that claim was previously dismissed.

The only remaining claim alleged Title IX gender discrimination. The former players noted that they never faced criminal charges, but Frank’s ruling said that “is certainly not evidence of a judicial adjudication or that plaintiffs ‘were proven innocent.'”

The men also claimed that an investigator for the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action used “manipulative tactics” with them in interviews and that their accuser helped draft the report. The players also alleged that “prior failed investigations motivated” the the school to punish them.

Frank said all the claims were unsupported by the evidence and “no reasonable jury could find that the University disciplined plaintiffs on the basis of sex.”

Michigan State player who swung helmet gets probation

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A Michigan State football player who swung his helmet at a Michigan player in a stadium tunnel expressed regret Tuesday and said he’s “just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue” on the field.

Khary Crump, a defensive back, was sentenced to probation. He was one of seven Michigan State players charged in a skirmish that followed a loss at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 29.

Crump was the only Spartan facing a felony, but that charge was dismissed in an agreement to plead guilty to misdemeanors. His record will be scrubbed clean if he stays out of trouble while on probation.

“Unfortunately, an exchange of words (took place), I felt attacked and unfortunately I did what I did,” Crump said of the tunnel altercation involving Michigan’s Gemon Green. “I’m not proud of that. I’m looking forward to moving forward.”

Crump was suspended by coach Mel Tucker. In addition, the Big Ten has suspended him for eight games in 2023.

“I had difficulties trying to stomach my actions … on that fateful day, but it happened. I can’t take it back,” Crump told MLive.com after the court hearing. “Honestly, I’m just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue in the future — on the football field, of course.”

At least four other players charged with misdemeanors Will Likely have their cases dismissed in exchange for community service and other conditions. The cases against two others are pending.