All night long the Michigan State Spartans were flirting with disaster. Failure to get touchdowns in the red zone, blown coverages and missed tackles on defense finally burned MSU against the Arizona State Sun Devils, blowing a lead and losing 16-13 in Tempe.
Michigan State took a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter, when the ASU offense returned to form. They scored 13 unanswered points culminating in a game-winning field goal as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
The 15th-ranked Spartans showed many of the same weaknesses against Arizona State that flared in Week 1. Little-to-no push on the offensive line left the MSU offense prone to mistakes in key moments. With LJ Scott sidelined the entire second-half and Connor Heyward hobbled after a big hit, the running game was non-existent, finishing with fewer than 100 rushing yards as a team.
Brian Lewerke again struggled with consistency and for the second week in a row turned the ball over in a crucial moment, throwing an interception in the end zone with the Spartans inside the ASU 10. But unlike last week, Lewerke couldn’t put together a late drive to clinch the win. Instead, the offense stalled late in the game and couldn’t even run the clock down.
The lone bright-spot in the offense’s night came in the third quarter. After failing to score a touchdown on their previous three drives to get inside the 25, the Spartans were again moving backwards after getting deep into ASU territory. However, a 31-yard pass from Lewerke to a leaping Cody White scored the Spartans’ lone touchdown.
White led the team with a career high nine catches for 113 yards.
Through the first three quarters, the MSU defense had found a way to make a play in the game’s biggest moments. Pressure from the front seven forced Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins to rush plays. Wilkins struggled with his accuracy down the field, repeatedly missing wide open receivers.
That changed late in the fourth quarter, when Wilkins connected on two deep passes on back-to-back plays. The second going to star wide receiver N’Keal Harry over the top of Justin Layne and into the end zone for ASU’s only touchdown.
A quick MSU offensive possession that saw starting punter Jake Hartbarger leave the game with what appeared to be a severe leg injury gave Arizona State the ball with just shy of five minutes left in the game. The Sun Devils offense carved up the tired defense, twice converting on third-and-long to keep the drive alive.
The biggest play of the game came on a controversial pass interference call against Layne. The penalty came on third-and-10, giving ASU a first down on the Michigan State 29, well within ASU kicker Brandon Ruiz’s range.
The Sun Devils ran off the remainder of the clock inside the MSU 10. Ruiz made the 28-yard field goal, his third of the game, as the final seconds rand off the clock.
Michigan State enters their bye week following the loss. They will return to the field in two weeks at home against Indiana.