The Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl is considered the most charitable bowl organization amongst all bowl games. This New Year’s Six bowl has donated and committed $57.9 million back to the community (including Atlanta Public Schools), their partner conferences and teams, the sport of college football.
Both participants, the Pitt Panthers and Michigan State Spartans, received $100,000 for their general scholarship funds in front of 41,230 fans. With COVID-19 back on the rise, fans were encouraged to wear masks and abide by the pandemic policies during their fan experience. Additionally, the roof was open inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Morris Brown College President, Dr. Kevin James, welcomed fans to the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl and then shared a prayer before kickoff, which was well received by a majority of the fans. Dr. James has seized every opportunity to showcase “The Hard Reset” of Morris Brown College and this was a great way to share an HBCU that most Big Ten or ACC fans wouldn’t know about. Once the game kicked off it was time to see who showed up to play here on the big stage.
Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett opted out of the game to prepare for the upcoming NFL Draft. While he was in the stands, his backup, Nick Patti started the game. Although Pitt had a rough start, the Panthers answered back in their next possession and the energy in the Benz was high! After Patti scored on a 16-yard touchdown run, he injured his shoulder while diving for the endzone.
Later on, a one-handed catch by Michigan State’s Jalyen Nailor had fans on their feet. No matter who they were rooting for before that pass, it was a play they’ll never forget.
Pitt led Michigan State 14-10 at halftime, but the fans remained in their seats to watch the bands perform.
Throughout the game, the Michigan State offense found it difficult to build any momentum. Michigan State turned the ball over twice, including once in the red zone, and missed a 33 yard field goal. The second turnover was due to Spartans quarterback Payton Thorne’s fumble on the second play of the second half which led to Pitt’s Cam Bright scoop and score on a 26-yard touchdown. At that point, it was 21-10 Pitt with 14:40 remaining in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Spartans finally found their mojo.
Thorne threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. Thorne finished the night with 354 passing yards and three touchdowns, overcoming his turnover. The Spartans also ran for 56 yards on 36 carries. Michigan State’s running game sputtered as they missed their best player, running back Kenneth Walker III.
Walker ran for 1,636 yards, the second-highest total in college football this season. He also scored 18 touchdowns. Walker won the Doak Walker Award as college football’s best running back. He also took home the Walter Camp Player of the Year.
Cal Haladay’s 78-yard interception sealed the game for the Spartans in the waning seconds.
Michigan State would beat the Pitt Panthers 31-21.
Wide receiver Jayden Reed was named the Offensive MVP, he had 6 receptions, 80 yards and two touchdowns. Haladay was the Defensive MVP with 11 tackles and the pick-six.
This was Michigan State’s Head Coach Mel Tucker’s first bowl game win in his second season with the Spartans.
“We had a chip on our shoulder since last season, the last game, when we played Penn State, with the COVID year and everything like that,” said Michigan State wide receiver Jayden Reed. Reed would tell reporters he felt like the team came together as a family and really developed under the new coaching staff.
Coach Tucker thanked the fans for believing in the team and for traveling to Atlanta for the bowl game.
“Our fans deserve a winning football team. Our fans deserve a championship football team. Our fans deserve to see a brand of football that they can be proud of,” Tucker said. “And that’s what we’re here to do. It means something to us to make our fans proud, and that’s something that we talk about all the time and we’re going to continue to do that.”
With the victory, Michigan State finishes with a record of 11-2, the most in a single season for the program since it went 12-2 in 2015. Meanwhile, Pitt finishes its campaign at 11-3, its most wins in a season since 1981.
Sparty is proud of their team! Although there’s not a lot of places open to party on New Year’s Eve, I am sure that fans will celebrate this win and the New Year.