Michigan State football's TE tandem soaring, but CB play more than a growing concern

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Here are the Michigan State football players who helped or hurt their stock in the Spartans’ 38-17 win Saturday at Miami (Florida).

Three up

Sep 18, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Michigan State Spartans running back Kenneth Walker III (9) runs the ball against the Miami Hurricanes during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium.
Sep 18, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Michigan State Spartans running back Kenneth Walker III (9) runs the ball against the Miami Hurricanes during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium.

RB Kenneth Walker III —It is hard to overstate the difference the junior Wake Forest transfer has made to MSU’s offense with his blend of vision, speed and power. His 172-yard, 27-carry performance grinded down the Hurricanes’ defense and showed Walker doesn’t have to score on the ground to be effective. His 7-yard touchdown catch on a pass from Payton Thorne showed Walker’s versatility and ability to reach the end zone other ways.

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TE Connor Heyward/Tyler Hunt —MSU struggled to move the ball early until offensive coordinator Jay Johnson started calling some screen passes for Heyward and Hunt that jumpstarted the Spartans’ offense. Back-to-back catches totaling 20 yards for Hunt, followed by another quick-hitter to Heyward ignited a 12-play, 73-yard drive that resulted in a field goal to get MSU on the board. Heyward, who as an H-back finally hasa role for his versatility steamrolled defenders on a pair of middle screens to finish with 49 yards on three catches. He also showed off his blocking from the backfield when Walker took a wildcat snap and ran behind Heyward to convert on third down in the third quarter.

Miami quarterback D'Eriq King (1) runs with the ball under pressure from Michigan State defensive end Drew Beesley (86) during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Sept 18, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Doug Murray)
Miami quarterback D'Eriq King (1) runs with the ball under pressure from Michigan State defensive end Drew Beesley (86) during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Sept 18, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Doug Murray)

DE Drew Beesley The sixth-year senior was one of the many edge defenders who pursued and contained D’Eriq King all afternoon, holding the Miami QB to just 7 rushing yards on 12 attempts. Part of that was because of Beesley’s two sacks, one in the fourth quarter on which he stripped the ball as King tried to pass and MSU’s Jacub Panasiuk recovered deep in Hurricanes territory and converted into a touchdown. Beesley finished with five tackles.

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Three down

CB Chuck Brantley — He is only here because of the ejection for targeting in the second half both spoiled his emergence in his homecoming game and will miss the first half of next week’s game against Nebraska. The freshman was the first cornerback to begin to slow down Miami receiver Charleston Rambo, and eventually Ronald Williams and Chester Kimbrough settled in and contained Rambo down the stretch.

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Miami quarterback D'Eriq King (1) breaks a tackle from Michigan State cornerback Kalon Gervin (18) during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Miami quarterback D'Eriq King (1) breaks a tackle from Michigan State cornerback Kalon Gervin (18) during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla.

CB Kalon Gervin — It was a tough day for the 5-foot-11 Gervin against the 6-1 Rambo. Much of Miami’s first touchdown drive came with King connecting with Rambo in front of the MSU junior, who twice missed tackle attempts on plays that turned into 20-plus-yard receptions. Gervin finished with two tackles and watched Brantley, Williams and Kimbrough get increased playing time.

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Special teams — It was a shaky afternoon in the third facet of the game for the Spartans, starting with Hank Pepper’s high snap on Matt Coghlin’s lone made field goal. Four of MSU’s 10 penalties came on special teams, two of them coming on the same punt and nearly another delay of game that forced MSU to burn a timeout. Maliq Carr’s roughing the punter was simply poor form going for a block, because the redshirt freshman transfer from Purdue was in position to at least get a piece of the ball before running into Miami’s Lou Hedley.

Contact Chris Solari: csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Read more on the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State football stock watch: Kenneth Walker III running strong

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