Wojo: Wolverines’ rebound is real, but full validation requires a Big Ten title

MSU LB Harvey comes up with big play in relief of injured Crouch

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — The injuries are piling up for Michigan State, and they’re not exactly coming at a good time as the Spartans head into their biggest game of the season next week at No. 6 Ohio State.

But in Saturday’s 40-21 victory over Maryland, it was an injury that turned into a heck of an opportunity for one veteran player.

Michigan State linebacker Noah Harvey (45) pursues Maryland tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo (9) in the fourth quarter.

With linebacker Quavaris Crouch out with an undisclosed injury, fifth-year senior Noah Harvey got the start and had one of the biggest plays in the game. He bounced back from a pass interference call in the end zone in the third quarter by intercepting a Taulia Tagovailoa pass near the goal line and returning it 36 yards.

The play thwarted a likely scoring drive for the Terrapins and the Spartans' offense took advantage, marching down the field in eight plays and extending the lead to 34-14 on a 3-yard pass from Payton Thorne to Jayden Reed.

“I can't really explain how happy I was for Noah,” senior safety Xavier Henderson said. “He puts so much work into his game and into this team and his play on special teams last week got him to be a captain this week. Then he gets the call to start and gets out there. I mean, that does show the kind of leader he is after getting that PI call … coming right back and making the big play like that.

“I was really happy for him. It means the world to me to see that guy because he gives so much to this program. So, I can't explain really how happy I am for him.”

It’s been quite the few years for Harvey, a former walk-on who played himself into a starter. He got five starts in 2019 and started all seven games a year ago.

But in the offseason, the Spartans hit the transfer portal hard, including at linebacker. Crouch, the Spartans’ leading tackler this season, came in from Tennessee while Ben VanSumeren arrived from Michigan and Itayvion Brown from Minnesota. Along with the emergence of redshirt freshman Cal Haladay, Harvey was the odd man out.

Until Saturday, when he made the play of the game and was swarmed by his teammates on the sidelines.

“Noah is a great teammate,” Thorne said. “He has been nothing but a great teammate this whole time and I knew that he would be ready whenever he needed to get in there.

“We didn't skip a beat and I thought he played well and had a few key plays.

Injuries mount

The injury to Crouch wasn’t the only significant one for the Spartans and it wasn’t the only new one from a week ago.

Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Simeon Barrow, who was to sit out the first half because of a targeting call last week, was not available, the team confirmed. There was not information given on why he was out. And freshman cornerback Charles Brantley, who injured his shoulder last week, was also out for the game.

Add those to known injuries to wide receiver Jalen Nailor and left tackle Jarrett Horst, who have each missed the last two games, and Michigan State was short-handed.

“Next man up,” Michigan State coach Mel Tucker said. “If you're in the game, you're a starter, whether somebody's helmet comes off and you're going in, or if there's an injury, or someone gets ejected or whatever, if you get in the game, you're a starter. Offense, defense, special teams, whether you're a freshman, a senior, we're going to put you in the game and we have the confidence in you to get the job done. That's what we tell them.”

Injuries also affected special teams for the second straight week. Kicker Matt Coghlin, who did not kick last week, was in on Saturday but in a limited role. He kicked the first extra point, but gave way to freshman Stephen Rusnak on the second PAT. That kick was wide left. Coghlin handled extra points from there.

The Spartans didn’t attempt a field goal, and Tucker didn’t say which kicker he would have used.

“He gave us what he had,” Tucker said. “We were evaluating him throughout the week. So we had a game plan for it.”

Uniform passion

Michigan State brought back the neon uniforms on Saturday but opted to avoid the neon pants.

Some love them. Some hate them.

But when it comes to the players, redshirt freshman safety Darius Snow, who had seven tackles and a pass breakup, loves them, and he doesn’t want to hear otherwise.

“I love them, especially with the dark green pants with a little color rush,” Snow said. “I've loved them since I first tried them on when I was a recruit. I love them now. Any negative criticism goes in my left ear and out my right ear, and it will always be that way. But I love 'em and I stand firm on my opinion, as well.”

He especially likes the big typeface on the front of the jersey that says, “STATE.”

“I believe it is making a statement. A state-ment. Like, Michigan State,” Snow said, being good-natured and forceful at the same time. “I told you, I love everything about them. Any time I go on Twitter or Instagram and I see some negativity, I look at it and scowl for a second and then go on with my day.”

By the numbers

Heisman Trophy hopeful Kenneth Walker III collected his seventh 100-yard rushing game of the season with 143 yards on 30 carries. He also tallied 172 all-purpose yards, the sixth time this season he has gone over 150 all-purpose yards.

Walker scored two rushing touchdowns to give him 17, tied for seventh most in a season in program history. His 18 overall touchdowns are tied for sixth most.

… Thorne tied his career high with four touchdown passes. He also had four scoring strikes this season against Youngstown State and Miami. He finished 22-for-31 for 287 yards and now has 21 touchdowns passes, tied for sixth most in a Spartan season.

… Reed had eight catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns. It marked Reed's eighth career 100-yard receiving game (four at Western Michigan, four at MSU).

… Montorie Foster caught his first career touchdown pass on a 52-yard flea flicker from Thorne in the first quarter.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau