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WATCH: Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State power past Northwestern

Sep 3, 2021; Evanston, Illinois, USA; Michigan State Spartans running back Kenneth Walker III (9) runs the ball against the Northwestern Wildcats during the second quarter at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 3, 2021; Evanston, Illinois, USA; Michigan State Spartans running back Kenneth Walker III (9) runs the ball against the Northwestern Wildcats during the second quarter at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Wake Forest transfer Kenneth Walker III rushed for 264 yards and four touchdowns, including a 75-yard burst on the first play from scrimmage, and Michigan State rolled past host Northwestern 38-21 in the season opener for both Big Ten teams on Friday.

Walker carried 23 times, while quarterback Payton Thorne completed 15-of-25 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown.

Hunter Johnson completed 30-of-43 passes and three touchdowns, including two to Trey Pugh, for Northwestern.

Michigan State led 21-7 at halftime as Walker piled up 137 yards on 10 carries.

Walker scored 13 touchdowns for the Demon Deacons last season and wasted no time notching his first Spartans touchdown.

Walker cut to his left and raced along the sideline for his opening score. Charlie Kuhbander missed a 44-yard field goal attempt at the end of Northwestern’s first possession.

Michigan State then drove 74 yards in 10 plays for a 14-0 lead. Thorne completed three passes on the drive and Walker had a 23-yard run to set up his 3-yard score.

The Spartans scored their third touchdown early in the second quarter. Thorne had a 16-yard run and the Wildcats committed a 15-yard personal foul penalty on the play. Thorne then connected with Jordon Simmons on a 14-yard scoring pass.

The Wildcats scored with just under a minute to go in the half on Johnson’s 1-yard pass to Pugh.

The Spartans made it 28-7 midway through the third quarter, going 80 yards in 11 plays. Thorne completed five passes on the drive, including a 23-yarder to Jayden Reed to the Wildcats’ 5-yard line. Walker scored from the same distance on second down.

Johnson completed 11 passes during the Wildcats’ second scoring drive, which he finished off with a 5-yard strike to Pugh with 11:17 remaining.

Matt Coghlin made a 37-yard field goal to give the Spartans a 17-point lead with 6:04 left.

Stephon Robinson Jr. caught a 14-yard scoring pass from Johnson following a Spartans fumble with 2:27 remaining. Walker scored his fourth touchdown with 1:29 remaining.

–Field Level Media