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Michigan State ‘stayed focused’ in win over Purdue

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Dantonio, Lombardi lead Spartans to a thrilling 23-13 win over Purdue in East Lansing

NCAA Football: Purdue at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

EAST LANSING — Michigan State beat Purdue at home Saturday 23-13 to improve to 5-3. The Spartans also continued their now eight-game winning streak against the Boilermakers.

After last weekend — Michigan State losing to Michigan and Purdue beating a No. 2 Ohio State team — today’s outcome was not necessarily expected. However, head coach Mark Dantonio felt like the Spartans rose to the occasion.

“We came out with the idea that we were going to attack on offense, defense, special teams,” said Dantonio. “Have momentum and keep momentum and that’s exactly what ended up happening.”

After having just 94 total yards against the Wolverines last week, the Spartans were able to find some of that momentum through freshman quarterback Rocky Lombardi, who started against the Boilermakers.

Despite an overwhelming amount of injuries for the Spartans’ offense this season, Lombardi was able to connect with wide receivers Darrell Stewart Jr. and Jalen Nailor for touchdowns.

“He’s (Lombardi) very confident every practice, every week,” said Stewart. “He was just fired up. He said he wanted to go and show everybody that he can step up and be a leader on this team and I think he did a phenomenal job today.”

“He was the same leader all the way through just being there for other people, getting people up if they’re feeling down, he’s boosting people up.”

Defensively, the Spartans put themselves in a position to keep things simple against an explosive Purdue offense, keeping the focus on the core of their identity.

“We’ve felt like the last couple games we gave up too many rushing yards and it wasn’t in our DNA, that’s not who we are,” said defensive coordinator Mike Tressel. “So we actually went back to step one and step two and what they’ve always been which is stop the run and harass the quarterback and not talk about passing yards – don’t worry about that.”

And that is exactly what they did.

The Spartans held Purdue — the No. 10 offense in the country — to 108 rushing yards and 339 total yards. On the season, the Boilermakers average 514.3 yards per game.

“That just speaks to the resilience of the defense,” said defensive end Kenny Willekes. “We’ve got playmakers all over. You saw Matt (Morrissey) flying around making plays, big blocked field goal by Mike (Panasiuk) and then an incredible play by Tyriq (Thompson) so you know, we have guys that step up and make plays and that’s what we had to do and that’s what we did.”

That ‘incredible play’ by Thompson was an interception and one of three turnovers that the Spartans forced on the Boilermakers. Both Thompson and Panasiuk’s plays came in near the end of the fourth quarter and sealed the game for the Spartans.

“People took notice today,” said Dantonio. “People all across the country took notice that the Spartans got up and played against a good football team that just had a huge win last week.”

The Spartans will travel to Maryland next weekend to face the Terrapins. Kickoff is set for noon.