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Spartans win despite late CMU charge

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Michigan State missed a chance to beat Central Michigan easily, but hangs on to win 31-20.

Central Michigan v Michigan State Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

With a chance to finish off the Central Michigan Chippewas with relative comfort, the Michigan State Spartans found themselves needing a long drive late in the fourth quarter to secure the victory in East Lansing. Despite the late scare, MSU hung on to win 31-20 and improve to 3-1 on the season.

The game ended much the way it started for MSU, sloppy play that gave life to the underdog. Following a big kickoff return to open the game, Central Michigan converted on a field goal. That 3-0 lead held for the Chips until the second quarter, when the MSU offense came alive for 17 points.

When the Spartans opened the second half with 14 points in the third quarter, the game felt secured. MSU held a 31-3 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately, the fourth quarter was all CMU. After the final MSU touchdown, Central put together a 13-play drive resulting in the visitors first touchdown of the game. An onside kick on the ensuing kickoff was converted into a field goal, bringing the score to 31-13 in the fourth quarter.

It was the decision to start the following MSU drive that will be questioned. With all of the momentum on the Chippewas sideline, Mark Dantonio sent backup quarterback Rocky Lombardi onto the field. The drive resulted in a three-and-out and -14 yards.

A Central Michigan running back-pass for 29 yards into the end zone made it a 31-20 game.

Brian Lewerke returned to the field for the next drive, draining the final 6:44 off of the clock and taking a knee deep in Central territory to end the game.

In the win, Lewerke threw for only 185 yards and an interception. He was able to score two touchdowns on the ground, the first by design and the second on a scramble. In all, Lewerke ran for 39-yards.

Running back LJ Scott missed his second consecutive game with an ankle injury, leaving the backfield to a committee of backs. Freshman La’Darius Jefferson led the team in rushing with 56 yards and the final touchdown of the game for MSU. Connor Heyward added 48 yards with a touchdown of his own, with fellow freshman Weston Bridges taking six carries for 18 yards.

Felton Davis III led the team in receiving with 66 yards, despite only catching three passes. Two of his three receptions came in the final drive of the game, for 29 yards. The remaining 37 yards came on the first drive of the second half, bringing MSU to the goal line and setting up the Heyward touchdown.

Cody White caught two passes for 40 yards, but didn’t play a snap in the second half due to an apparent wrist or hand injury late in the first half. Both Jalen Nailor and Darrell Stewart Jr. missed the game due to injuries.

Michigan State stays in East Lansing next week, hosting Northwestern.