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Ken Walker the four-touchdown debut at Michigan State
Seaside Joe 1175: New college, same elite college running back
You may recall in the last episode of this series that on his first play as a Michigan State Spartan, Ken Walker III did this:
Why did Walker score a 75-yard touchdown on his first run of the season? Thankfully, I approached him before the game and asked him if he would make a strong statement because I had a feeling that about nine months later I was gonna be diffusing the haters with a series of posts about how awesome he is as a football player.
We appreciate it, Ken.
After scoring on his first play of the season, Walker came over to me on the sidelines and asked, “Is that good enough?”
I looked at him dead in the eyes and said, “You know what’s cooler than 75 yards and a touchdown? 263 yards and four touchdowns.”
He responded with 264 yards.
But as much as I’d like to paint this picture with a rose-tempered brush, Seaside Joe’s method of truth means that I must always be anticipating criticisms from the other side. It’s something you learn after 12 years of writing about the Seahawks and reading the comments afterwards. The NFL is not nearly as predictable as people are and I’ve grown used to certain cliché critiques; in some cases, I can tell you what the comments will be at SB Nation before I’ve even written the article.
This is not to say that criticism is bad. It’s good. And these days, the issue is more about tolerance of criticism than it is the lack of criticism, but both are in short supply.
By anticipating the negative comments, I am able to cut the snake off of the head. Or if you’re playing against Northwestern’s defense, you can take the wild out of the cat.
That wasn’t too difficult last year because Northwestern may have had the worst run defense in all of college football. Nebraska rushed for 427 yards and seven touchdowns against the Wildcats; Minnesota had two 100-yard rushers against Northwestern, as did Michigan; Wisconsin’s Braelon Allen had 173 yards and three touchdowns, leading to a total of 268 rushing yards against their defense.
However, in his defense, nobody was better against Northwestern than Ken Walker III, and he backed it up with the rest of his performances last season after Week 1. Walker had another 189 rushing yards and three touchdowns after his 75-yard run to start his Michigan State career. Here are some of those runs.
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Speeding on Easy Street
Northwestern crashes down to the front side of the play and “there’s nobody home” as noted by the booth, giving Walker a clear path to a 22-yard run.
On the next play, two tight end set, Walker again uses his elite vision and decision making skills, as he did for all three years in college, to change direction and find the easy lane to a touchdown instead of the more difficult path.
What do you like the most about Ken Walker that you’ve seen in this series so far? Don’t forget to tell me in the comments after you’re done reading!
Elusive in crowds
Walker gets a block from receiver Jalen Nailor and gets super skinny, shedding a couple of tackles and pushing through four defenders as much he humanly can.
A few plays later, Walker stretches the entire length of his body to score his third touchdown for Michigan State.
Touchdown #3 (pic only)
Another broken tackle, another 50-burger
When Michigan State gets the ball back, Walker opens the drive by breaking a tackle and taking the ball another 50 yards downfield, as his offensive line continued to dominate Northwestern’s admittedly terrible defense.
Cuts like a samurai sword
Leading by 10 with less than three minutes left, Walker helps the Spartans close out the game by showing off some of his niftiest footwork of the night and displaying no signs of fatigue despite a significant workload and over 220 yards rushing.
Walker started the game with a 75-yard yard touchdown, but he may have saved the best for last with his fourth touchdown of the night. I don’t care how bad the defense is—dominant play like this by a running back will make any defense look much worse than they are.
As impressive as Alabama receiver Jameson Williams’ acceleration is, Walker’s stop-start ability is just as other worldly. The announcer mentioned multiple times that Walker reminded him of Le’Veon Bell… remember, this was a player who practically had no stars coming out of high school, had one or two division-I offers, and was playing in his first game with the Spartans. (Another thing about Bell: long praised for his receiving abilities in the NFL, Bell only had 531 receiving yards and one touchdown over his three college seasons.)
Ken Walker had a 96-yard touchdown run in his first game on offense at Wake Forest. He had three three-touchdown games (in seven opportunities) as a sophomore. He opened his junior campaign in a new offense by rushing for 264 yards and four touchdowns, but it wouldn’t be his last 200-yard game of the season, nor would four touchdowns turn out to be his season-high.
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