WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Exactly one week after a chaotic near collapse in East Lansing versus Nebraska, Michigan State avoided a shocking upset at the hands of Purdue.
Against Nebraska, it took an interception by Trae Waynes in the Cornhuskers’ final drive to seal the deal for MSU. A late interception, this time by Darien Harris, sealed the deal for MSU against Purdue. Harris returned the pick for six, making the final score 45-31 in favor of the Spartans.
The Spartans came into the game 21-point favorites, and it looked as though the game would play out that way early. Michigan State drove down the field to score a touchdown on their first possession, as Connor Cook found Tony Lippett for a 39-yard touchdown.
Cook, who finished the game with 19 completions for 238 yards and three touchdowns, had a nearly perfect first half. His second half, however, was highlighted by an interception thrown to Frankie Williams early in the fourth quarter. Cook had a sure-interception dropped by Williams earlier in the game. The one that was not dropped, was returned to the 40-yard line of MSU, and Akeem Hunt, who finished with 12 carries and 96 yards, broke a 52 yard touchdown to put Purdue back in the game.
Connor Cook on interception:
“On a sprint out, usually you read the cornerback,” Cook said. “If the cornerback bails out you just take the hitch right away. I saw the cornerback bail, they had a safety come down and play flat coverage and made a really good play. But I gotta be smarter.”
The next drive resulted in a MIchigan State punt, and Purdue responded again with a Hunt touchdown. With the score now 38-31 with 6:19 left in the game, the momentum had completely shifted to Purdue’s side.
Michigan State was only able to kill three minutes on their next drive, and the Spartans were forced again to punt the ball.
Sadler Returns to Form
Fortunately for Michigan State, punter Mike Sadler came out of his slump at the right time.
In last week’s game, after failing to successfully run out the clock, a line-drive punt was returned for a touchdown by Nebraska, completely shifting the game and bringing MSU closer to a complete meltdown of a loss. This time was different, as Sadler pinned Purdue on their own five yard line.
Harris Saves the Day
You would think that would have been enough, to have Purdue near their own end zone with 2:59 to play in the game, with one more chance to drive down the field to tie the game. Michigan State had forced a 4th and six, and Purdue was able to convert. Just when the Boilermakers had made it out of their own red zone, Austin Appleby had his pass picked off by Darien Harris, and it was returned for a touchdown, sealing the deal for Michigan State.
Harris’ Comments on the Interception:
Against Nebraska, the coaching staff was criticized for “conservative play calling” in the second half. While Nebraska was able to cut a 24-point lead to just six in the fourth quarter, Purdue cut a 21-point lead to seven in this game.
However, this week MSU came out throwing the ball late in the game, and one throw resulted in the Williams interception, and the Spartans were giving Purdue more and more time on the clock as the result of several incomplete passes.
Dantonio made a gutsy call on a fake punt with under eight minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Lawrence Thomas fielded a direct snap and was stopped short of the first down, giving Purdue great field position.
Dantonio commented after the game that he still thinks it was the right time to run the fake, but the right execution did not take place on the field.
“A great football game today, the Boilers responded in the second half very fast and scored 21 points and then it was back to the same old for us,” Dantonio said. I’ve said all week long that Purdue is an improved football team and continues to move forward. Their offense played extremely well with only one turnover.”
“Cook was money today on his number of throws. Defensively played very well the entire third quarter and going into the fourth. The fake punt backfired a bit on us, but we rallied with big plays in the end by Darien Harris for the touchdown. We walk away with a win, and we continue to lay one brick at a time,” Dantonio said.
While the Spartans’ pass offense was unsuccessful in closing out the game, MSU did have success running the ball. As a committee, Michigan State ran for 294 yards. Leading the way was Jeremy Langford with 104. Langford has now rushed for 100 or more yards in 10 consecutive games against Big Ten opponents.
Jeremy Langford on His Performance and the Close Win:
“Whatever play the coaches call, we got to execute,” Langford said. “Purdue did a great job to fight back at the end of the game.”
Langford said that the win did not lose any significance because of the score.
Delton Williams, who did not get a single carry against Nebraska, had four touches today, ending up with 44 yards.
While it was Langford who carried the load yardage wise for MSU, senior running back Nick HIll was able break some big runs of his own, while running in for two touchdowns in goal line situations.
Nick Hill on His Performance:
“We’re excited we won, but we got to be able to finish in the 4th quarter,” Hill said.
MSU earned their first win on the road this season, and it was not an easy one. They are now 5-1 on the season, and 2-0 in the Big Ten. Michigan State will play their first Big Ten East Division game next week at Indiana.
Bradley Allen is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports
Photo: Bradley Allen/Impact Sports