Michigan State’s safeties had faced plenty of criticism through the season’s first six games. In Saturday’s 35-11 win against Michigan, the pair of Kurtis Drummond and R.J. Williamson had their redemption.
Drummond said he would say it is the best the duo has played so far this year.
”We were just back there being comfortable and having fun,” he said. “When you're comfortable you're able to fly around and help each other. We definitely had chemistry back there today.”
For Williamson, the game came as a little bit of extra redemption. The junior entered the season as the starter, but after some early season struggles, he was replaced by true freshman Montae Nicholson in the starting lineup against Nebraska and Indiana.
Coach Mark Dantonio said Williamson earned his way back into the lineup for his play against Indiana last week, so he made the start against Michigan. He rewarded the decision as he recorded an interception in the third quarter and returned in 29 yards for a touchdown to give Michigan State a 21-3 lead.
”This is a play that will be remembered for a long time and there will be a lot of highlights from that play,” Dantonio said. “I thought he played extremely well. He was focused and had a great week of practice and is a very good football player.”
Williamson said it felt good to come out and make a play to help his team.
”I had the opportunity to compete and help this ball club win games,” he said.
Teammates and coaches praised Williamson for his attitude and how he handled being out of the starting lineup.
”He never sat and moped about it, he just got ready to play,” Dantonio said.
“He is a good guy and he understands,” senior defensive end Marcus Rush said, “… It obviously was bothering him. It would be weird if it didn’t bother him, but he’s a good player. I think it’s only going to make him more confident the following week.”
That attitude was visible again during Saturday’s game. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said as he coached up his players during the fourth quarter, Williamson was coaching younger players, calling it a “beautiful thing” about Williamson.
”He's not bitter about fighting in the game for a position,” Narduzzi said. “He's just a super, super person.”
Cornerback Trae Waynes said he saw Williamson play well, but it was a statement for him as much as it was redemption.
”His whole play today was more like a statement game,” he said. “He really came out today and he was really enthusiastic and he played very passionately today and we all fed of it.”
Williamson also praised Drummond, saying while playing with a leader like the senior next to him, it makes it easier to make plays.
But for the pair, it was a big game so far this season in the eyes of many, including linebacker Taiwan Jones.
”R.J. and Kurtis, they are like best friends so seeing them out there having fun together and making plays was really exciting for me,” he said. “Those are two guys that are great playmakers for us and in order for us to get where we want to go, they are going to have to play at the best of their ability.”