The Michigan State Spartans took a huge step today, defeating the 11th ranked Wisconsin Badgers, 34-24. It was a statement win and shows that MSU is over the hump of laying eggs against top ranked teams. It also opened the door for a run at a Big Ten Championship and a possible BCS berth. I know I may be getting ahead of myself, but if the Spartans play the way they did today for the rest of the year, they will be tough to beat. As for the game, here is the rundown…
Wisconsin received the opening kickoff and was forced to punt after a three and out. Michigan State drove the ball down the field and converted on two third downs, with the key play being a 12 yard reception by TE Charlie Gantt. The drive stalled after a pass interference penalty by WR Mark Dell, as the Spartans settled for a 36 yard field goal by Dan Conroy. Wisconsin was stopped again on their next drive and Michigan State was driving until QB Kirk Cousins threw an interception at the Badger’s 15 yard line. Cousins had time, but he did not step up in the pocket and threw the ball off his back foot into traffic. Wisconsin took advantage of the turnover and marched right down the field in eight plays. The drive was capped off by a 16 yard run by RB James White, just two plays into the 2nd quarter. The Spartans led 3-0 at the end of the first, in which they dominated the Badgers in total yards (110-57).
The Spartans received the kickoff and were running the ball successfully, when they turned it over again. This time, it was Keith Nichol who caught a third down pass, gained 10 yards and was stripped of the football. Wisconsin recovered at the Michigan State 33 yard line, but was stopped on a great stand by the Spartan defense. They forced the Badgers into a 49 yard field goal attempt by placekicker Philip Welch, which was good. MSU responded with a 5 play, 36 yard drive that ended with another 36 yard field goal by Dan Conroy. The Spartans took off from here and scored 14 unanswered points. The first touchdown was a 73 yard punt return by WR Keshawn Martin. He took the punt, exploded through the middle of the Badger’s defense and outran the punter down the right sideline. The scoring was capped off on an 8 yard touchdown pass from Cousins to Dell, with only 23 seconds left in the 2nd quarter. It was a beautifully thrown ball, in which only his receiver was able to make a play on it. Wisconsin then took a knee and ended the half down 20-10.
The defense played exceptionally well in the first half, holding the Badgers to only 118 yards of total offense and one third down conversion out of six. The only points they scored were on Michigan State turnovers, so the scoreboard could have realistically read 20-0, if the Spartans took care of the ball. MSU, on the other hand, had 230 yards of total offense in the first half and were a very balanced team. They had 17 rushes for 79 yards and 19 passing attempts (12 completions) for 150 yards. Kirk Cousins looked the best he has all year, despite throwing 2 interceptions in the first half. He was very accurate with his throws and he did not force anything, taking exactly what the defense gave him.
Michigan State received the kickoff to start the 2nd half and was forced to punt after Cousins took a 12 yard sack on 3rd and 15. On the ensuing drive, Wisconsin marched the ball down 47 yards in 3 plays, capping it off with a 34 yard touchdown run by White. MSU answered with a long drive that ended at the Badger 1 yard line, when Michigan State was stopped on 4th and goal. This could have been the turning point of the game and in the past, the Spartans may have folded. But not on this day, as the defense buckled down and forced Wisconsin to punt on a three and out. Michigan State responded to the defense stepping it up, by doing the same thing themselves. Charlie Gantt scored on a 1 yard touchdown pass to make the score 27-17 at the end of the 3rd quarter. The key play on the drive also came from Gantt, on a 28 yard pass from Cousins on the first play of the series.
Wisconsin had the first possession of the 4th quarter and took full advantage of it. They went 70 yards in 11 plays to cut the Spartan lead to three points. The drive ended on a 12 yard touchdown reception by TE Jacob Pedersen, in which the key play came on a 3rd and 10 screen pass that went for 12 yards. Michigan State again showed resilience in marching right down the field and punching it into the end zone. This was the drive of the game, considering the Spartans went 83 yards in 14 plays, taking almost eight minutes off of the clock. Again, MSU went for it on 4th down and converted a 1 yard touchdown pass from Cousins to WR B. J. Cunningham to seal the deal. It was only fitting that the defense stopped the Badgers on their last drive because they played their hearts out the whole day.
Final Score: MSU 34 Wisconsin 24
Michigan State dominated throughout the game on both sides of the ball. On offense, they finished the game with 444 yards of total offense. Kirk Cousins passed for 269 yards, while Edwin Baker rushed for 87 yards on 18 carries. I cannot say enough about both of these guys and they really did prove why MSU will tough to beat as the season goes on. Cousins will only come out of this game with more confidence and Baker is just a workhorse, who runs hard and has a very quick burst through the line. The defense held a good Wisconsin offense to 292 yards of total offense and only 127 yards through the air. The secondary played a great game and took a huge step forward today. They made plays all over the field and did not give the Wisconsin receivers any room to make catches. Finally, Greg Jones was an absolute stud today for the Spartans. He made plays all over the field, in which they held Badger’s RB John Clay to under 100 yards for the first time in ten games.
All I have to say is bring on Little Brother…
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Written by David Lesmeister