Spartans Pull Away to Win Season Opener Against Central Michigan 31-7

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State was looking to turn things around after struggling through a 5-7 record in 2022 and opening the new season in search of redemption.

The Spartans scored three touchdowns in a span of eight minutes in the send half to pull away from Central Michigan 31-7 on Sept. 1 in front of 73,216 fans in the season opener for both teams. 

“I’m happy for how our guys played with effort, obviously we have a lot to clean up on,” MSU coach Mel Tucker said following the game. “We started off slow, but we kept chopping being able to execute in all three phases and get the win.”

But it was not until late in the third quarter that the Spartans began to execute on a consistent basis and begin to wear down the visiting Chippewas.

Jalen Berger’s 12-yard run with 2:42 remaining in the third quarter gave MSU some breathing room as the Spartans took a 16-7 lead. Jonathan Kim added the PAT to increase the lead to 17-7.

Noah Kim, who was making his first career start at Michigan State, threw for a pair of touchdowns in the final period as the Spartans pulled away on offense and the defense continued to thwart CMU.

Kim connected with Tyrell Henry from 10 yards out and Jonathan Kim tacked on the extra point to give the Spartans a 24-7 lead with 13:26 remaining in the game. Just over four minutes later Maliq Carr was on the receiving end of a pass from Kim that was turned into an eight-yard scoring play to extended the lead to 31-7 following another PAT off the foot of Stephen Rusnak with 9:05 remaining in the game.

Michigan State had taken the early lead when Jonathan Kim connected on a 47-yard field goal midway through the second quarter to give the Spartans a 3-0 lead with 6:55 remaining in the first half before CMU took the lead with 1:51 left in the period. 

Bert Emanuel Jr. found Chris Parker for a touchdown from 12 yards out and Tristan Mattson’s PAT kick gave the Chippewas what turned out to be their only lead of the game.

The advantage would be short lived.

Nate Carter went up the middle from two yards out to cap an 84-yard drive in seven plays as MSU regained the lead 10-7 with just 48 seconds left in the first half. The scoring drive took just 57 seconds and was highlighted by a pass from Kim to Jaron Glover on the right side that covered 33 yards before being tackled short of the goal line. Carter scored on the very next play to give the Spartans the 10-7 halftime edge.

Kim had edged out Katin Houser for the starting job at quarterback after last year’s starter, Payton Thorne, transferred to Auburn at the end of spring practice and finished with 279 yards through the air after completing 18 of his 31 passing attempts in his first collegiate start. He also ran three times for nine yards in the contest.

Houser saw action late in the game and attempted just one pass and ran for nine yards of his own on his only carry in the game.

Carter, a transfer from Connecticut, finished the game with 113 yards rushing on 18 carries to pace the Spartans on the ground. Berger, meanwhile, carried eight times for 24 yards. Carter and Berger were also active in the receiving game as they combined to catch five passes from Kim in the contest. Berger caught four passes for 30 yards, while Carter picked up 21 yards on his lone reception on the night.

Glover paced the Spartans with 75 yards on three receptions and teammate Christian Fitzpatrick was close behind with 70 yards on just two catches.

CMU was held to just 219 yards of total offense in the game by an active Michigan State defense. 

Emanuel, a dual-threat signal caller, paced the Chippewas with 41 yards rushing on 17 carries in the game as CMU could only muster 123 yards on the ground. Seven other players combined for just 82 yards on 24 carries. Emanuel completed 11 of his 17 pass attempts for 87 yards in the game after going 8-of-12 for 73 yards in the opening half against the Spartans.

The Chippewas and Spartans were nearly identical in the number of offensive plays in the game with CMU having 66 plays and the Spartans snapping the ball 64 times. The difference turned out to be what was made with those snaps.

CMU managed just 3.3 yards per play while the Spartans posted an impressive 6.3 yards per play in the game.

Cal Haladay led that stingy MSU defense with a game-high 10 tackles, including one tackle for loss, while also picking up the third interception of his career. His interception came on the first drive of the second half after CMU had taken five plays to move to the MSU-35 before Angelo Grose break up a pass from Emanuel and Haladay managed to control the ball into his arms and return the ball two yards to end the scoring threat.

Malik Spencer and Jacoby Windmon finished with nine and eight tackles, respectively, for the Spartans.

“I felt like we gave ourselves an opportunity,” CMU coach Jim McElwain, whose team finished 4-8 last season. “When you play in these games depth is always an issue, and yet our guys didn’t back down.”

Michigan State continues it long homestand to open the season. The Spartans play host to Richmond on Sept. 9. (3:30 p.m./Big Ten Network) before playing Washington (Sept. 16) and Maryland (Sept. 23). Central Michigan is scheduled to play New Hampshire for its home opener on Sept. 9 (1:30 p.m./ESPN+).

Central Mich.07007
Michigan St.01071431

Team Statistics

Game StatsCMUMSU
Total Yards219406
Pass Yards96279
Rushing Yards123127
Penalty Yards7-758-66
1st Downs1921
3rd Downs3-165-13
4th Downs0-10-2
MSU06:55 – MSU – Kim,Jonathan 47 yd field goal 5 plays, 16 yards, TOP 01:2203
CMU01:51 – CMU – Parker,Chris 12 yd pass from Emanuel, Jr.,Bert (Mattson,Tristan kick) 3 plays, 70 yards, TOP 01:2073
MSU00:48 – MSU – Carter,Nate 2 yd run (Kim,Jonathan kick), 7 plays, 84 yards, TOP 00:57710
MSU02:42 – MSU – Berger,Jalen 12 yd run (Kim,Jonathan kick), 5 plays, 45 yards, TOP 02:50717
MSU13:26 – MSU – Henry,Tyrell 10 yd pass from Kim,Noah (Kim,Jonathan kick) 3 plays, 82 yards, TOP 01:24724
MSU09:05 – MSU – Carr,Maliq 8 yd pass from Kim,Noah (Rusnak,Stephen kick) 5 plays, 55 yards, TOP 02:02731