Michigan State's Kenneth Walker III had a banner day in the Spartans' 37-33 win over Michigan on Saturday, running for 193 yards and five touchdowns in East Lansing, Michigan.
It was his second game this season with four or more rushing touchdowns, which leads all running backs in the FBS. He's only the third Michigan State player to score five rushing touchdowns in one game, and he's the only Spartans running back with five rushing touchdowns against the Wolverines.
Coming into this game, Walker was second in the country in total rush yards and had garnered Heisman talk. This performance will only add to that talk, but Walker is quick to give credit elsewhere.
"Overall, I don't feel like it's a Heisman moment, but I feel like it was just a great team win," he said after the game.
The Spartans put together an impressive second half after trailing Michigan 23-14 at halftime. At one point in the second half, Michigan State had not converted a third down on seven tries, but then rattled off three straight third-down conversions leading to one of Walker's touchdowns.
Quarterback Payton Thorne had thrown two interceptions in the first quarter, and only had 116 yards through the air in the first half. He knew he needed to stay calm and said the team's mindset was to stay positive, partially because they knew they had Walker in the backfield.
"I will say, three of his touchdowns today, I wasn't expecting a huge play," Thorne said. "On the first one, we were in the huddle, and I said let's just forget the red zone, let's just score right here and he did, so that was good. The other one was not a home run play, but as you see with him, any play could be a home run. The o-line was doing a good job, I'm sure he'll give them credit."
Michigan had a 30-14 lead at one point in the game, and with the loss, the Wolverines are now 89-2 since 2004 in games in which they led by 16 or more points at any time in the second half.
It looked as though Michigan was going to have a shot at winning the game, with quarterback Cade McNamara throwing for 383 yards and two touchdowns. The Michigan coaching staff brought in freshman quarterback J.J. McCarthy late in the fourth quarter with a three-point lead, and McCarthy fumbled and lost the ball to the Spartans.
Walker scored on the ensuing drive to take the lead, and although Michigan was able to get the ball back with less than two minutes in the game, an interception by Charles Brantley sealed the win for Michigan State.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is now 3-4 against Michigan State, and the Wolverines are 7-1 on the season. The Spartans are 8-0 for the first time since 2015, when they made the College Football Playoff, and they will take on Purdue on the road on Nov. 6. Head coach Mel Tucker won't look ahead to what's next or what this could mean for the future.
He believes his team has accomplished what they needed to accomplish through these eight games, but it doesn't mean anything if they don't continue to execute. Tucker is the first head coach at Michigan State to start his career 2-0 against Michigan, but won't say if he thinks this team is ahead of schedule at this point in his career.
"I don't believe in self-imposed limitations," Tucker said. "I've said this before publicly, our goal is to win every game on our schedule. Whether it's home or away or regardless of who it is, that's our goal. Whether we can do that or not, only time will tell. What does success look like? I've been asked several times, success is us reaching our full potential as a football team.
"And so we have not hit our ceiling yet, we still have room for improvement and we have a tough schedule ahead."