Michigan State battled their hearts out today and came out of Illinois with a 35-27 victory over Northwestern. At one point, the Spartans were down by seventeen points, but they dug deep and found a way to pull out this victory (Reference for my brother-in-law). I am so jacked up right now and proud to be a Spartan, that it may be difficult to write this blog. All I know is that the Spartans are still undefeated and off to their best start since the National Championship year of 1966. They will definitely move up in the BCS rankings also, considering that two teams ahead of them are playing each other today (#4 Auburn vs. # 6 LSU). I really am rooting for Iowa to win today against Wisconsin, to set up a showdown for the possible Big Ten Championship with Michigan State next week. It will be another tough test for the Spartans and I am really looking forward to seeing how they will respond and play in such a huge game. This is definitely a different MSU team and the confidence they have right now must be off the charts. I will stop rambling and tell you how they pulled this one out!
The 1st quarter saw the Spartans struggle to find any kind of rhythm on offense. They only managed 63 total yards and 1 first down, during the first fifteen minutes of play. They could not get anything going, as they were stopped on two consecutive series, both on short third down run plays. The defense also came out flat, in which they did not tackle very well. As a result, they gave up 158 yards to the Wildcat offense. Northwestern scored the only points of the quarter on a 3 yard touchdown run by QB Dan Persa. He was basically the only offense for the Wildcats throughout the half, making plays with his legs and his arm. Michigan State was able to force a fumble on their own one yard line, but were unable to capitalize on it, as the Spartans were forced to punt after a three and out. First Quarter: Michigan State 0 Northwestern 7
Northwestern continued the drive that ended the 1st quarter, and marched the ball all the way down to the Spartan eighteen yard line. The defense was able to get a key stop on a 3rd and 6, as DT Jerel Worthy sacked Persa for a seven yard loss. The Wildcats had to settle for a 37 yard field goal by placekicker Stefan Demos. Michigan State then sustained a drive down to the Wildcat twenty one yard line, where the drive stalled after a dropped pass by WR Keith Nichol, on third down. Dan Conroy then missed his first field goal of the year, this one on a 38 yard attempt. Northwestern took advantage of the missed opportunity by the Spartans and put another seven points on the board. Dan Persa again punched another one into the end zone, this one on a 1 yard sneak by the quarterback. Michigan State needed to get something going before the half and they answered the bell. The Spartans scored a touchdown with 2:49 to go in the half, on a 7 yard touchdown pass from QB Kirk Cousins to WR Mark Dell. The key play of the drive was a crucial third down conversion by the Spartan offense. On a third and 12, from the Northwestern 21 yard line, Cousins hooked up with WR B.J. Cunningham for a 14 yard completion to keep the drive alive. Halftime: Michigan State 7 Northwestern 17
Michigan State came out with fire and passion in the second half. They forced Northwestern into a three and out on their first series, and then scored on their next drive. There series lasted all of three plays, capped off by a 22 yard touchdown run by WR Bennie Fowler on an end around. This made the score 17-14, with fourteen minutes to go in the 3rd quarter. The two teams traded punts and then the Northwestern offense took over. They scored on a fifteen play drive, which covered 80 yards, and was capped off by another Persa touchdown run. Third Quarter: Michigan State 14 Northwestern 24
The 4th quarter was owned by the Spartans, in which they took their opening drive for a touchdown. The key play was another fake field goal, where P Aaron Bates threw a pass to WR Bennie Fowler down to the Wildcat 15 yard line. From there, it took Cousins one play to find Dell for a 15 yard touchdown pass. Northwestern responded with a 41 yard field goal on the next drive. The Wildcats were driving, but the defensive line, which played outstanding the whole game, came up with a sack to force the kick. The teams again traded punts, in which MSU got the ball back with about 7 minutes to go in the game. Cousins led the Spartan offense down the field, converting on numerous third downs and even one fourth down play. The drive was complete with 2 minutes to go and the Spartans leading 28-27. Cousins found Cunningham in the back of the end zone for a juggling 9 yard touchdown reception to take the lead. The MSU defense then stopped the Wildcats on four downs and the Spartan then punched in another touchdown to ice the game. Edwin Baker scored on a 25 yard run, breaking tackles and carrying Northwestern defenders into the end zone.
Final Score: Michigan State 35 Northwestern 27
Kirk Cousins showed today why he is should be considered one of the best quarterbacks in the country. He was poised and calm throughout the game, and was at his best when the game was on the line. He is so smooth in the pocket and can make any throw on the field. He finished with 329 yards and 3 touchdowns. His two favorite targets, Dell and Cunningham, each had spectacular days catching the ball. They really did help out Cousins by catching everything thrown their way. Each is becoming a playmaker in their own right and you can just see the connection that both have with their quarterback, growing stronger each week. Dell finished the day with 9 receptions for 107 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Cunningham had 8 receptions for 113 yards and 1 touchdown. The run game never really got going, but Baker still averaged 7.3 yards a carry, on 10 attempts, with 1 touchdown. Also a shout out to the defensive line, which had 7 sacks today. They made it very difficult for Persa to get anything going, especially in the second half, and the last few drives of the game.
All I have to say is that this is our year and no one, including Iowa, will stand in our way!
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Written by David Lesmeister