Heading into Michigan State’s Week 1 game vs. Northwestern, Spartans head coach Mel Tucker did not publicly reveal who the starting quarterback would be. Shortly before kickoff of the 9 p.m. ET game, Tucker announced that redshirt sophomore Payton Thorne had won the job and would start at the Wildcats. Thorne won the job over Temple transfer Anthony Russo, a sixth-year senior who arrived in January with 26 starts under his belt.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Thorne completed 56.5% of his passes for 582 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions in four appearances last year. He received his first career start on Dec. 12 at Penn State, which ended up being the Spartans’ last game of the season. Thorne was going to be MSU’s starter the following week against Maryland, but the Terrapins had to cancel the game because of COVID-19 cases within their program.
Thorne did not disappoint vs. Northwestern, leading his team to a 31-21 win. In the victory, Thorne completed 15 of 25 passes for 185 yards with one touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Another big storyline in the game was Wake Forest transfer running back Kenneth Walker. The junior carried the team on his back, totaling 23 carries for 264 yards and four touchdowns.
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Check out the media’s reaction to Thorne, Walker, and the Spartans’ hot start to the 2021 season in Tucker’s second year as head coach.