Michigan vs. Michigan State score, takeaways: Kenneth Walker III runs wild to lead epic Spartans comeback

No. 8 Michigan State stormed back from 16 points down in the second half on Saturday afternoon to defeat No. 6 Michigan 37-33 in a thriller between two teams atop the Big Ten East. The Spartans, down 30-14 in the third quarter, didn't take their first lead of the game until only 5 minutes remained. That's when star running back Kenneth Walker III broke free for a 23-yard touchdown run to seal the victory.

It was Walker's fifth touchdown run of the game as he cemented his status as a top Heisman contender. Walker finished the day with 197 yards rushing on 23 carries for an average of 8.6 yards per carry. He broke off three rushes of at least 20 yards on the day, including a 27-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and a 58-yard touchdown run early in the fourth. It was an incredible performance for the transfer from Wake Forest, and just another in a growing list of standout showings during his time with the Spartans.

Michigan State needed all five of Walker's touchdowns, too, as the Michigan offense was impressive in defeat. The Wolverines finished the day with 552 yards of offense as Cade McNamara threw for 383 yards and two touchdowns, but it wasn't enough. Two fourth-quarter turnovers proved fatal for the Wolverines.

Michigan State improves to 8-0 on the season, while Michigan falls to 7-1. 

Here are five takeaways from this game -- one for each of Walker's touchdowns.

1. Walker will be in New York this December

There are many paths a player can take to a Heisman Trophy (albeit, all are on offense), but the one that has proven to be the most reliable is making big plays in big games. Walker accomplished that multiple times on Saturday. Any time you score all five of your team's touchdowns in an upset of a top-10 team, people are going to notice -- especially when you're the first player in history to rush for five touchdowns in a game against Michigan, which has been playing football for a long time.

This isn't to say nobody had noticed Walker before Saturday. He came into the game leading the nation in rushing yards per game and went over 1,000 yards on the season with his first carry of the day. But now that he's done it in a spotlight game against a top-10 team like Michigan, you can bet the Heisman campaign will really begin picking up steam this week.

Walker made the first move today in a season that has been crying for somebody to grab the Heisman spotlight.

2. Michigan State won this game in the red zone

What if I told you that Michigan had 552 yards of offense, averaged 6.7 yards per play and scored on all six of its red-zone possessions. You'd assume the Wolverines won the game, wouldn't you? Of course you would, but the problem Michigan had is that while it scored on six red-zone possessions, only two of those scores were touchdowns.

Michigan State seemed happy playing red-zone roulette on Saturday, allowing the Wolverines to move the ball down the field and then taking the space away from them when the field got smaller. It worked! Michigan settled for four field goals on the afternoon, and in a four-point game, that looms huge. If Michigan finishes drives earlier in the game, this one isn't even close late.

3. Spartans defense could be their downfall

While red-zone roulette worked, I do still have concerns about this Michigan State defense. The Michigan offense was the most talented and powerful the Spartans have faced this season, and some cracks were showing. While Michigan State was limiting Michigan's powerful rushing attack (146 yards on 34 carries), a Wolverines passing attack that was dormant for most of the season found room to work.

Now that the Spartans are 8-0, things are setting up for a showdown with Ohio State on Nov. 20. I don't know if they'll get away with the approach we saw today against a Buckeyes team that's a lot more dangerous offensively. Of course, Walker may rush for 6 touchdowns that day, and it won't matter.

That's why it's nice to have Kenneth Walker III.

4. Michigan can still be optimistic

If you'd have told me before the game that the Wolverines rushed for only 146 yards and averaged only 4.3 yards per carry, I'd have assumed they lost by two scores. This offense had been built around Hassan Haskins (59 yards, 14 carries) and Blake Corum (45 yards, 13 carries) this season, but neither found much room to work.

Instead, a Michigan passing attack emerged. While the game ended with a Cade McNamara interception, times were desperate and he tried to make something happen. He'd been spectacular on the day before it. He threw for 383 yards and two touchdowns, showing both touch on deep balls as well as zip and accuracy on shorter throws. It was the best performance I can recall seeing from a Michigan quarterback in the last few years.

While this loss stings and hurts Michigan's chances in the Big Ten, oddly enough, I'm more confident in this team's ability to beat Ohio State now than I was before the game. This is a very dangerous team if the Wolverines can bring this passing threat to their remaining games.

5. Best pass-rush pairing in the Big Ten

Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo were disrupting the Michigan State backfield all day. The duo combined for seven tackles and three sacks. Ojabo twice forced fumbles from Michigan State QB Payton Thorne --  though one was questionably overturned upon review. Hutchinson had only one sack, but he also drew three holding calls on the Spartans.

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SAT 12:00 P
MICHST +4, o50.5
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MICHST 4, O/U 50.5

Season Leaders

passing
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C. McNamara2576 YD, 15 TDS, 6 INTS
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C. McNamara2576 YD, 15 TDS, 6 INTS
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P. Thorne3240 YD, 27 TDS, 10 INTS
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P. Thorne3240 YD, 27 TDS, 10 INTS
rushing
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H. Haskins270 ATT, 1327 YD, 20 TDS
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H. Haskins270 ATT, 1327 YD, 20 TDS
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K. Walker III263 ATT, 1636 YD, 18 TDS
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K. Walker III263 ATT, 1636 YD, 18 TDS
receiving
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C. Johnson40 REC, 627 YD, 3 TDS
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C. Johnson40 REC, 627 YD, 3 TDS
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J. Reed59 REC, 1026 YD, 10 TDS
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J. Reed59 REC, 1026 YD, 10 TDS
Live updates
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@UMichFootball via Twitter
October 30, 2021, 7:55 PM
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And it won't matter. Charles Brantley picks off Cade McNamara on the very next play and that's your ballgame. Michigan State beats Michigan 37-33 in a top-10 thrilled that lived up to all the hype.

October 30, 2021, 7:53 PM
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Wow. Roughing the passer gives Michigan 15 free yards. Just a dumb penalty by the Spartans.

October 30, 2021, 7:53 PM
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Michigan gets the ball back at the UM 33 with 1:15 left and no timeouts, needing a touchdown.

October 30, 2021, 7:52 PM
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TURNOVER ON DOWNS. McNamara's pass to Blake Corum is incomplete. The Wolverines are looking for a flag, but they'll be looking for a while cuz it isn't coming.

October 30, 2021, 7:47 PM
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Michigan facing another 4th down. It's 4th and 3 at the MSU 31. The Wolverines have all three timeouts left, so it's possible they could still win if they don't convert here, but it'll be REALLY difficult.

October 30, 2021, 7:45 PM
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No guts, no glory. Michigan goes for it on 4th and 4 at its 35 and picks up seven yards and a first down.

October 30, 2021, 7:41 PM
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October 30, 2021, 7:39 PM
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He's done it again. FIVE TOUCHDOWNS today for Kenneth Walker. This one from 23 yards out and Michigan State has a 37-33 lead with 5:08 left to play. Walker has clinched a trip to New York for the Heisman ceremony today.

October 30, 2021, 7:36 PM
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@UMichFootball via Twitter
October 30, 2021, 7:36 PM
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@MSU_Football via Twitter
October 30, 2021, 7:35 PM
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Michigan fumbles right back! McCarthy fumbles the exchange with Haskins and Panasiuk gets on top of it. Spartans ball at midfield.

October 30, 2021, 7:30 PM
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@MSU_Football via Twitter
October 30, 2021, 7:30 PM
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Near disaster for the Spartans! Ojabo strips Thorne from behind on third-and-long but the Spartans are able to get back on top of the ball. Still, they have to punt and now Michigan gets the ball at its 47 following a good return. There's 7:17 and you can bet Michigan will look to bleed all of it here.

October 30, 2021, 7:27 PM
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@MSU_Football via Twitter
October 30, 2021, 7:26 PM
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@UMichFootball via Twitter
October 30, 2021, 7:26 PM
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Aidan Hutchinson has been dominant today. Just picked up his second sack, but he's been in the backfield all day.

October 30, 2021, 7:25 PM
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@UMichFootball via Twitter
October 30, 2021, 7:22 PM
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Michigan State holds the Wolverines to a 36-yard FG attempt and Jake Moody drills it. It's 33-30 Wolverines with 9:20 left to play. We've seen it a few times today. Michigan moves the ball down the field well and then stalls out in the red zone.

October 30, 2021, 7:21 PM
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Wow, JJ McCarthy fumbles and the ball bounces around but Michigan State can't pick it up. Instead it kicks the ball out of bounds and Michigan retains possession.

October 30, 2021, 7:18 PM
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