KALAMAZOO — The No. 5 Michigan State Spartans held off the Western Michigan Broncos 37-24 to notch their first win of the 2015 campaign Friday night.
The Spartans were put to the test, but prevailed in the fourth quarter icing the game with a field goal after the Broncos rallied to pull within 10 points.
Running the ball was no problem for the Spartans in the first half. Michigan State divided the load between three different backs – two of them making their first appearance on the college football stage.
Spartan running back Madre London rushed for two touchdowns in his college career debut, while Gerald Holmes crossed the end zone once to give the Spartans three rushing touchdowns on the night.
“We want to see growth in our running backs,” head coach Mark Dantonio said. “It was a question mark coming in (to the season), but all three ran the ball effectively. I think we’re good.”
Flying under the radar in this contest, MSU quarterback Connor Cook completed 15 of 31 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns. Cook was exceptionally well on third down, leading the Spartans to convert nine of their 14 third down plays.
Michigan State’s run defense did not miss a beat from last season, clamping down on the Broncos running game allowing only 18 yards on the ground.
“We started off fast, and our defense played extremely well against the run,” Dantonio said. “We made some mistakes, but we’ll fix those.”
However, the Michigan State secondary gave up 365 passing yards and WMU wide receiver, Corey Davis, was the main target for quarterback Zach Terrell.
Davis hauled in 10 receptions for 154 yards and one touchdown, but it was not enough for the Broncos.
Not to be ignored, Western Michigan’s Darius Phillips gave the Spartans’ kick coverage unit all types of headaches, gaining a total of 185 yards on kick returns, including a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, which answered Michigan State’s first score.
In the long run, the Spartans got the job done. Heading into next week’s matchup against No. 7 Oregon, the Spartans have a win under their belt.
“They all count as one. We are 1-0, and we will get ready to play next week,” Dantonio said.