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Michigan State Downs Northwestern 29-20

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Mel Tucker picks up his second AP Top-15 win of his time at MSU

Northwestern v Michigan State Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Saturday started off as another beautiful day for football at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans sure didn’t disappoint! Michigan State turned in quite the impressive performance as the Spartans went on to stun the No. 8 Northwestern Wildcats 29-20 in a truly impressive performance by all facets of the game at times.

After Michigan State opened the game with a three and out, the Spartans forced Northwestern to turn it over on downs. As MSU began the drive on its own 19-yard-line, Connor Heyward ran it up the middle for six yards before MSU aired it out. On the second play of the drive, Rocky Lombardi airs out a bomb downfield to Jalen Nailor, and it was a touchdown pass for 75 yards by the Spartans. 7-0 MSU!

Northwestern fumbled the kickoff at its own one-yard-line, but recovered it for a big return to start on it’s own 35-yard-line. However, after moving it to MSU’s 42, the Wildcats tried to convert it on fourth-and-two and Peyton Ramsey was picked off by Shakur Brown. Brown had a monster return and MSU was first-and-10 at the NU 11-yard-line. The Spartans failed to convert for a first down and elected to kick a 22-yard field goal. Coghlin sent it through the uprights and it was 10-0 Michigan State with 7:06 left on the clock.

The offense wasn’t done yet on scoring for the first half. After forcing Northwestern to punt on their next drive, the Spartans marched it 85 yards down the field over 13 plays and finished it off with a 15-yard touchdown pass by Lombardi to Jayden Reed to make it 17-0.

Northwestern finally responded with a score of its own after a 51-yard, 13-play drive was finished off with a 42-yard field goal by Charlie Kuhbander to make it 17-3. The Spartans were forced to punt on their next drive, and NU responded with a nine-play, 42-yard drive for another field goal to make it 17-6.

Michigan State managed to drive it 55 yards on their next drive over 14 plays, but Coghlin missed a 49-yard field goal attempt as the drive stalled out at NU’s 32-yard-line and NU took over with just 59 seconds left in the half. However, they stalled out at NU’s 49-yard-line. The Spartan offense really showed up in this one, though the defense had some big plays. In particular, Shakur Brown picking off Ramsey and returning it 54 yards to NU’s 11-yard-line to set up MSU’s first field goal. The offense, though, racked up 244 yards while converting on third downs at a 60 percent clip.

Northwestern came out with a vengeance from the locker room to open the second half. The Wildcats marched it down the field 75 yards over 10 plays. NU had passes of 16 and 27 yards on its first two plays, and had two more of 12 yards each. The Wildcats ended the drive with rush attempts from the one-yard-line on second and third down, being held up both times by the MSU defense. NU elected to go for it on fourth-and-one and Ramsey kept it on a quarterback sneak to march into the end zone. The extra point was good and now its 17-13 MSU with a narrow lead right off the bat in the second half.

The Spartans managed 36 yards on their own opening drive, but were forced to punt. NU and then MSU each punt again on their next drives before its NU ball again on offense with 2:28 to go in the third quarter. As the clock rolls over to the fourth quarter, NU faced third-and-12 from MSU’s 25-yard-line and Ramsey hit Riley Lees for a 20-yard pass and two plays later converts for a Wildcats touchdown. NU seized the lead 20-17 after the extra point was good.

MSU opened its next drive and managed to pick up eights yards, but Lombardi threw an interception right into the arms of Northwestern’s Paddy Fisher. NU took over on offense and immediately commits its own turnover as Kyric McGowan drops the handoff and Jack Camper for MSU falls on it. The Spartans proceeded to march down the field its own 47-yard-line to the NU 26 where Coghlin nailed a 44-yard field goal attempt to tie it up at 20-all with 10:11 left in the game.

The defense forced a three-an-out, but MSU’s offense responded in kind on the next two possessions. Then as NU took over and faced third-and-seven from its own 33-yard-line, Shakur Brown read Ramsey perfectly and made a monster hit on Northwestern’s Berkeley Holman to grab the interception. Holman was injured on a clean hit, and MSU took the ball 19 yards over seven plays to set up a 48-yard field goal by Coghlin. The Spartans seized the lead 23-20 with just 3:35 left on the clock.

Northwestern took over after the kickoff on offense, but failed to gain any yards. Xavier Henderson almost picked off Ramsey but the replay clearly showed the ball hit the ground. Northwestern elected to punt on fourth-and-10 from its own 22-yard line and got a booming 42-yarder off to flip the field to MSU’s 36 with just 2:57 left.

The Spartans elected to play it safe and eat clock off by pounding it out on the ground. Heyward managed two yards on the first attempt, but was stuffed at the line of scrimmage for no gain on second down. Then Lombardi kept it and ripped off 10 yards for the first down and then some.

Michigan State failed to convert on the fresh set of downs but forced NU to exhaust their final timeout as well while bleeding the clock down to just 33 seconds. After using their own timeout, Mitchell Crawford got off a 32-yard punt NU fielded, but managed just one yard to set up a final drive attempt from its own 19-yard line.

Ramsey was flagged for intentional grounding on the first play of the drive, and NU lost 10 yards and incurred a 10 second runoff. Ramsey threw incomplete on second down, and then on 3rd and 20 Ramsey completes the pass to Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman, but Bowman attempted the lateral as he was tackled and it was fumbled by NU. The ball bounced into the end zone and Michigan State’s Kalon Gervin fell on it for a Spartan touchdown with no time left! Final score: 29-20 and a Victory for MSU!