Spartans' Xavier Henderson lets loose over lack of respect from ex-Wolverines

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Oh, to be a senior in a big rivalry.

For Michigan State’s Xavier Henderson, Saturday afternoon was not only a chance to even his overall record against Michigan to 2-2, but with it being almost certainly his final time playing the Wolverines, it gave the Spartans captain a chance to truly open up about how he felt after No. 8 Michigan State’s 37-33 victory over No. 6 Michigan at Spartan Stadium.

He brought out the greatest hits as he walked into the interview room clapping, going back to 2007 in Mark Dantonio’s first season as Michigan State’s coach. The Spartans couldn’t hold a second-half lead as the Wolverines rallied for the four-point victory.

Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson celebrates after sacking Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne during the fourth quarter.

Afterward, Michigan running back Mike Hart uttered the phrase that helped tip the series on its head, calling the Spartans Michigan’s “little brother.”

“What they talking about now, huh? What they talking about now?” Henderson said to a crowded media room. “It sounded good. It sounded good before the game. Thanks Mike Hart. Coach D said it will never be over, it’s still not over.”

Henderson was not done there.

He called out former Wolverines Chase Winovich as well as Taylor Lewan, the Tennessee Titans offensive tackle who pulled out the “little brother” line this week when talking with the media. And he went after Braylon Edwards, too, who said he couldn’t name a single player on Michigan State’s defense.

“Thanks Chase Winovich. Thanks, Lewan,” Henderson said. “Thanks Braylon Edwards. I bet you know Chuck Brantley’s name now, don’t you? It sounded good, but I don’t know what they’re talking about now.”

Brantley, of course, is the freshman cornerback who intercepted a Cade McNamara pass in the final minutes to help clinch the victory for Michigan State (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten), which has won two in a row in the series and 10 of the last 14 since Hart’s comments.

It was clear that all the chatter before the game was on the mind of the Spartans. Well, on Henderson’s, at least.

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The senior safety had seven tackles and delivered a couple jarring blows to Michigan running back Blake Corum and tight end Erick All. Henderson also said there was plenty of talk on the field, but none of it was over the line.

The talk might not have driven everyone, however. Junior wide receiver Jayden Reed, who had six catches for 80 yards, said he didn’t let any of the talk get to him.

“You’ve got to block that kind of stuff out,” Reed said. “That’s just stuff to distract you and take your focus off where it needs to be. So, you know, I really had no distraction.”

Of course, Reed will likely be back for the next installment of the rivalry next season, so no need to add fuel to the fire.

For Henderson and his fellow seniors, though, it was a heck of a way to go out as the Spartans rallied from a 16-point deficit in the second half in front of a packed stadium.

“Thanks to Spartan Nation for being out there and sticking with us through the game while we were down,” Henderson said. “I didn’t see anybody leave, so we appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts.”

Sealing the deal

Don’t let Charles Brantley’s size fool you.

He was born to make big plays.

The 6-foot, 165-pound cornerback sealed the victory on his interception of Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara with a minute remaining.

“He makes plays out there,” Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne said. “A great, awesome play for him to seal the game. And he’s just a baller.”

Brantley, a freshman from Sarasota, Florida, was guarding an underneath route near the sideline when McNamara let his pass go for tight end Luke Schoonmaker. Brantley jumped the route before the ball left McNamara’s hands, and he got there just in time to come away with an interception.

“He has the edge,” said Michigan State wide receiver Jayden Reed, who has put in plenty of reps against Brantley in practice and training camp.

“He has that mentality to where he’s not afraid of anybody. No matter how big you are, how fast you are, he’s very competitive.”

Beesley's back

Michigan State got some help along the defensive line, though, as sixth-year senior defensive end Drew Beesley was back after missing more than three games, getting injured Sept. 25 against Nebraska.

Beesley started and had one tackle while redshirt freshman Jeff Pietrowski and graduate transfer Drew Jordan also rotated in with Beesley and fifth-year senior Jacub Panasiuk, the other starter.

“Really just having his presence there was big,” Henderson said of Beesley’s return. “His leadership. Drew is the true definition of a Spartan Dawg. Drew is a big-time leader for us and him being out there shows how much he loves the game and how much he loves Michigan State.”

Also back were redshirt freshman end Itayvion Brown, who had not played since the opener against Northwestern, and defensive tackle Jalen Hunt, who was back after missing the Indiana game two weeks ago. And for the first time since injuring his leg on a Week 2 touchdown, junior running back Elijah Collins is back in uniform for the Spartans and appeared on special teams.

Notables who did not player included guard Matt Carrick, who played in each of the first seven games, and defensive end Jack Camper.

Extra point

Michigan State backup quarterback Anthony Russo, who pleaded guilty to reckless driving this week after being arrested this month for operating while intoxicated, was not in uniform. Redshirt freshman Noah Kim served as the backup to starter Payton Thorne while freshman Hamp Fay was the No. 3 quarterback.

Twitter: @mattcharboneau

Freelance writer Nolan Bianchi contributed