It is officially bowl season, and we are now under 10 days away from the 2019 New Era Pinstripe Bowl in New York City. The regular season didn’t end the way most of us thought it would, but the good news is the Deacs have 1 more game this year to go out and finish off strong. Wake Forest has a chance to get to 9 wins for just the 3rd time in school history if they can beat the 6-6 Michigan State Spartans in the Pinstripe Bowl on December 27th. Let’s take a quick look at a couple of players for MSU that could have a big impact on the game.
Offense: Darrell Stewart Jr. | Sr. WR | #25
This one was kind of challenging because I did not see very much of MSU during the season and their offense doesn’t really have anybody that stands out on the stat sheet. Part of the reason for that is that it appears their offense really wasn’t very good this season. The Spartans finished the season 101st in the nation in yards per game with 361.5 yards and 107th in scoring with 22.0 points per game (right behind NC State’s 22.1 points per game). They threw for 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions through the air and averaged just 3.5 yards per carry on the ground—not exactly the flashiest of stats. That being said, the player to watch for the MSU offense is Darrell Stewart Jr., a senior wide receiver from Houston, Texas. Stewart finished the season 2nd on the team in receptions, catching 47 passes for 694 yards and 4 touchdowns in just 8 games. He crossed the century mark in yards 3 times this season including a 10 catch, 185 yard, 1 TD performance against Western Michigan. More importantly, however, he led the Spartans with 8 kickoff returns for 175 yards (21.9 avg), and we all know how much the Deacs have struggled with kick returns this season. Wake was 123rd out of 130 teams in kick return defense this season and, if I’m not mistaken, the only team in FBS to give up 3 return TDs. Stewart has missed the last 4 games a leg injury, but everything I’ve seen indicates that he will likely play in what will be his final college football game. Kicking the ball to Stewart and allowing the Spartans the chance to score without having to put their offense on the field would probably be a big mistake. I remain team #KickItOutOfBounds.
Defense: Kenny Willekes | RS Sr. DE | #48
The defense was a lot easier than the offense, because the MSU defense was very good this year. The Spartans finished the season 18th in the nation in total defense, giving up just 319 yards per game, and 36th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 22.7 points per game. They also have one of the best defensive ends in the nation in Kenny Willekes. Willekes finished his 5th year with 69 total tackles, 8.5 sacks, and 14.0 tackles for loss. He picked up 2nd Team All American honors from the Walter Camp Football Foundation for the 2nd straight year, 1st Team All Big Ten honors from the media, 2nd Team All Big Ten honors from the coaches, and the Burlsworth Award for the top player in the nation who started his career as a walk on. Needless to say, he is very good. The only real question going into the Pinstripe Bowl is whether Willekes will suit up for the Spartans or sit out to focus on the NFL Draft. Willekes likely would have headed to the NFL after last season, but a broken leg in the Spartans 7-6 loss to Oregon in the Red Box Bowl caused him to return to MSU for his final year of eligibility. Based on the latest info, Willekes is planning to play in the Pinstripe Bowl.