The defense got the Spartans off to a quick start in the first quarter with a great one handed interception by LB Greg Jones. He read the play, jumped underneath the route, picked off the pass and returned it to the Northern Colorado 4 yard line. It only took MSU one play to punch it in after the turnover, as Edwin Baker scored from 4 yards out. The two teams then traded punts and MSU continued the scoring on their third drive of the quarter, with an 8 yard touchdown run by Le’Veon Bell. He also had the key play of the drive, as the Spartans converted a 2nd and 22, on a 35 yard screen pass from Kirk Cousins to Bell. The Michigan State defense dominated, forcing the Bears into one turnover and three punts in the first quarter, as the Spartans took a 14-0 lead into the 2nd.
Michigan State came out on the first play of the 2nd quarter throwing a wide receiver screen to Bennie Fowler, in which he fumbled the ball before stepping out of bounds. The first turnover for the Spartans did not hurt them, as the defense held strong and forced the Bears to punt. On the next series, Cousins led the Spartans right down the field, capping off the drive with a 25 yard touchdown pass to TE Brian Linthicum. The big play of the drive that set up the touchdown was a 25 yard pass to WR B.J. Cunningham. Northern Colorado started to move the ball against the Spartans defense on the subsequent drive, but Jones intercepted another pass to end any momentum the Bears were beginning to muster. MSU capitalized on the turnover and marched right down the field in three minutes, scoring on a 2 yard touchdown run by Bell. The Spartans closed out the half with another touchdown, this one on a 17 yard pass from Cousins to RB Larry Caper, with 59 seconds left in the 2nd.
The Spartans took a 35-0 lead into halftime and QB Kirk Cousins had a great deal to do with that. He went 11-13 for 221 yards and 2 touchdowns in the first half. He looked very poised and comfortable in the pocket, in which he threw the ball with authority and accuracy. It seems that he has found a favorite target in Cunningham, seeing that he is his go to guy in important situations. MSU also was successful in the run game, rushing for 114 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. On the defensive side of the ball, the Spartans looked fast and aggressive, as they forced two turnovers and only gave up 141 total yards in the 1st. The secondary played well, getting numerous pass deflections and the front seven was tough against the run and the pass. The only negative for the Spartans in the half was penalties, as they had 6 for 66 yards. This is too many for a game, let alone a half and there must be improvements as the schedule gets tougher.
There was not much action in the 3rd, as Michigan State scored the only points in the quarter. The defense forced another turnover, this one on an interception by S Trenton Robinson. For the third time in the game, a Spartan turnover lead to 7 points for MSU, as Le’ Veon Bell finished off an 8 play drive with a 15 yard touchdown run. Northern Colorado finally got on the board in the 4th quarter on a 32 yard touchdown pass. The Bears quarterback was able break contain and throw to a wide open receiver in the end zone. Michigan State finished off the scoring on a 43 yard field goal by placekicker Dan Conroy. Final Score: MSU 45 Northern Colorado 7
Cousins finished the game with 290 yards and 2 touchdowns. Bell led all rushers with 92 yards on 11 attempts and 3 touchdowns, while Mark Dell led the Spartan receivers with 2 receptions for 65 yards.
This was a nice victory for MSU heading into the showdown with Wisconsin next week. They took care of business like they were supposed to and this should give Michigan State plenty of confidence, even without their head coach. The offensive line again opened up huge holes for the running backs, as they look to be one of the strengths for this ball club. I have not really given them much credit for all the success the Spartans are having in the ground game and I now realize they deserve much of the praise. If they can keep this up and also continue to protect Cousins, then this Michigan State team could turn this season into a special one.
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Written by David Lesmeister