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.

WVU RB Donaldson in concussion protocol, out for Baylor game

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) West Virginia running back CJ Donaldson is in concussion protocol and will miss next week’s home game with Baylor after he was injured in a loss to Texas, coach Neal Brown said Tuesday.

Donaldson remained on the ground after he was tackled on a short gain in the third quarter of Saturday’s 38-20 loss to the Longhorns. His helmet and shoulder pads were removed and he was carted off the field on a stretcher. After the game he was cleared to travel home with the team.

“He’s recovering,” Brown said. “There is a strict return-to-play (policy) that we have to follow here and I’m zero involved in it. All I do is ask the question. They don’t even start the return-to-play until they’re symptom free.”

Donaldson, a 240-pound freshman, leads the Mountaineers with 389 rushing yards and six touchdowns, with an average of 6.9 yards per carry.

West Virginia (2-3, 0-2 Big 12 Conference) is idle this week and hosts Baylor (3-2, 1-1) next Thursday, Oct. 13.

Taulia Tagovailoa says he visited brother, Tua, over weekend

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was able to visit his brother, Tua, last weekend after the Terrapins’ game against Michigan State, he said Tuesday in his first comments to reporters since Tua left the Miami Dolphins’ game against Cincinnati last Thursday with a frightening head injury.

Taulia played in Maryland’s win over Michigan State on Saturday but was not made available to the media afterward. He said Tuesday he was able to go to Florida and spend some time with his brother, who suffered a concussion four days after taking a hit in another game but was cleared to return.

“He’s doing good, everything’s fine,” he said. “My biggest thing was just seeing him and spending as much time as I can with him. I came back Sunday night.”

Tagovailoa said he appreciates the support for his brother.

“My brother’s my heart. He’s someone I look up to, someone I talk to every day,” he said. “It was just a hard scene for me to see that.”

Tagovailoa said he was in constant contact with his mother about his brother’s situation, and he was finally able to talk to Tua on Friday night.

“I really just wanted to go there and just spend time with my family, hug them and stuff like that,” Taulia Tagovailoa said. “But he told me he’s a big fan of us, and he’d rather watch me play on Saturday. … After that phone call, I was happy and getting back to my normal routine.”

Tagovailoa indicated that his brother’s injury didn’t make him too nervous about his own health when he took the field again.

“I guess when that happens to someone like my brother, or when anything happens to one of my family members, I don’t really think of how it will be able to affect me,” he said. “I just think of: `Is he OK? How’s he doing?”‘

Although it was a short visit to Florida, he said he and Tua made the most of their chance to be together.

“I just wanted to make sure he’s healthy and stuff, which he is,” Taulia Tagovailoa said.