A sloppy game from start to finish ended with multiple wasted opportunities for Michigan State. The Spartans erased a double-digit lead and took a brief lead in the third quarter, but the offense fell flat allowing Northwestern to take complete control in the win.
Michigan State took the first lead of the game on a 27-yard Matt Coghlin field goal after the offense stalled inside the Northwestern 15. The lead didn’t last long, two plays later Northwestern scored on a 77-yard touchdown completion from Clayton Thorson to Kyric McGowan. The Wildcats scored on another big play on their very next possession when Thorson found JJ Jefferson for a 34-yard touchdown.
The Spartans had another drive collapse inside the NU 15, settling for a 25-yard Coghlin field goal.
MSU had an opportunity just before the end of the first half after getting the ball back and putting together a quick drive to the Northwestern 47. But with just over two minutes in the half, Brian Lewerke threw an interception right to Jared McGee, sending the game to half 14-6.
Felton Davis III took over in the third quarter, attempting to will the Spartans to victory. On the second drive of the third quarter, Davis followed a 21-yard reception with a 48-yard reverse for a touchdown. The failed two-point conversion brought the game to 12-14.
A fortunate bounce on the following drive turned into a Mike Panasiuk interception at the Northwestern 33. Lewerke and the offense finally converted in NU territory, finishing off the six-play drive with a three-yard pass to Davis in the end zone. With the extra point, MSU retook the lead and overcame the early 11-point deficit, going up 19-14.
Once again, the lead didn’t last long.
Thorson led a nine-play 75-yard drive that finished with a 21-yard pass to Cameron Green for a touchdown. Northwestern converted their two-point attempt and when the third quarter came to a close, they held a 22-19 lead. The MSU offense would never recover.
After a Northwestern missed field goal, the Spartans offense went backwards on two consecutive plays, turning into a quick three-and-out. On the next possession, MSU gained nine yards on first down, but failed to get the first down on the next three plays, turning the ball over deep in their own territory to Northwestern with four minutes remaining.
Northwestern converted the great field position into a touchdown, taking a 10 point lead.
For the first time all quarter, the MSU offense finally started to put together a few big plays. They quickly moved down the field but on third down inside the NU 10, Matt Sokol caught a pass but fell short of the end zone with less than 30 seconds left. With no timeouts left, Mark Dantonio left the offense on the field instead of attempting a rushed field goal. On fourth down, Lewerke overthrew Davis, turning the ball over to Northwestern. One play later, the game was over.
The Spartans fall to 3-2 on the season and 0-1 in the Big Ten. They enter the most difficult stretch of the season, hitting the road to play Penn State next week, followed by Michigan at home. Even the next games against Purdue and Maryland now appear more difficult than some thought earlier in the year.