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Notebook: MSU newcomer Jayden Reed has up-and-down day; Heyward starts over Collins

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Jayden Reed hadn’t played in a football game in almost two years.

So, needless to say the sophomore transfer was chomping at the bit to get back on the field and make his debut with the Spartans after earning freshman All-American honors in 2018 at Western Michigan.

He certainly made the impact Michigan State fans were hoping for on Saturday, however, it was also mixed in with a couple of mistakes that were critical in Michigan State’s 38-27 defeat to Rutgers in the delayed season-opener.

Michigan State's Jayden Reed, right, scores on a first-quarter, 50-yard touchdown against Rutgers on Saturday at Spartan Stadium.

Reed caught 11 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns, but a pair of fumbles in the first half ended Michigan State drives.

“I’ve just got to do my job,” Reed said. “When there’s a crowd around me I’ve got to protect the ball with two hands. That’s preached to us in practice and Coach Tucker also preaches to us, ‘Next play,’ when stuff like that happens, you’ve got to move on. You can't keep that in your head and let that affect you on the next player or drive.”

It was a dubious beginning for both Reed and the Spartans. On their first play from scrimmage, Reed hauled in a 19-yard pass from Rocky Lombardi but had the ball knocked away when he was going for more yardage.

“That’s one heck of a way to start a game,” Lombardi said. “It was pretty unfortunate.”

More: Wojo: Tucker's Spartans sloppy, stubborn in stunning loss to Scarlet Knights

The defense held on that giveaway and did again after Reed’s second turnover. However, when Reed fumbled that time it came at the Rutgers 22-yard line, ending a scoring chance for the Spartans.

“Obviously, we need to take care of football and ball security, we put a premium on those things,” Tucker said. “They can be corrected and will be corrected. But he’s not a player that you see putting the ball on the ground in practice, so I know that we can we can get that cleaned up.”

Take out the miscues and it was exactly the type of day the Spartans were expecting from Reed, who had to sit out last season after transferring.

“Obviously, he can make plays and is an explosive athlete,” Tucker said. “He can make plays in the return game, in special teams and obviously as a receiver. He can make guys miss, he's got really good hands and he's got good burst and acceleration.

“He’s a weapon for us. He’s hard to cover, he can make plays and we're going to continue to work with him and continue to move him forward and getting where he needs to be.”

Running back surprise

Michigan State entered the season thinking it was deep at the running back position, and four backs saw action on Saturday.

In a bit of a surprise move, junior Connor Heyward got the start ahead of sophomore Elijah Collins, last season’s leading rusher. Heyward only carried seven times for 18 yards and Collins was completely ineffective, carrying the ball eight times for a loss of 1 yard.

Sophomore Brandon Wright lost 2 yards on one carry while freshman Jordon Simmons showed the most, gaining 43 yards on 14 carries, though he fumbled in Rutgers territory to account for one of seven Michigan State turnovers.

“Our depth chart, our reps chart is fluid and it’s based on production in practice,” Tucker said. “Nothing is set in stone. So, all of those guys we played, they have talent. … Jordan Simmons, he's a guy that went in there and showed he has some burst through the hole and he made some plays and so we’ve got competition at that position. I think that's the good that's a good thing. You’ve got to earn what you get. You’re gonna earn the carries, earn your touches.

“We’re gonna continue to do that. It's an unselfish group, which is good, and they understand that there's gonna be competition every day.”

Notables 

Five true freshmen saw action on Saturday as wide receivers Ricky White and Montorie Foster got in the game, as well as Simmons, cornerback Angelo Gorse and defensive end Jeff Pietrowski.

White caught one pass for 5 yards while Grose was credited with one tackle.

… Sophomore receiver Tre Mosley was injured in the second half and did not return to the game.

… Michigan State’s seven turnovers were the most since 1981 when MSU beat Minnesota.

… Rutgers ended a 21-game Big Ten losing skid.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau