Paced by Maxwell, Bell and a relentless defense, MSU topples Chippewas 41-7 in first-ever meeting in Mt. Pleasant
Junior defensive end William Gholston takes down Central Michigan’s Courtney Williams. The Spartans defeated the Chippewas, 41-7, on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012, at Kelly/Shorts Stadium in Mount Pleasant, Mich. Justin Wan/The State News
Mt. Pleasant, Mich. — One week after topping No. 24 Boise State, the No. 11 MSU football team made another statement Saturday afternoon.
And head coach Mark Dantonio made sure that statement was made early.
On the first play of the second quarter with the Spartans leading 7-0, Dantonio called on junior running back Le’Veon Bell to punch it in from the seven-yard line, hoping to score right in front of Central Michigan’s packed student section.
“I sort of challenged our football team,” Dantonio said of the score. “Going towards the visitor’s endzone, I said ‘We’re going to run it in. Let’s see how good you are, we’re going to run it in — right in front of the student section, right when it’s the toughest, right when it’s the loudest, we’re going to run it right there.’”
Bell delivered, taking the handoff to the left side and cutting upfield for his second touchdown of the day, putting MSU up 14-0 and the rout was on.
Junior running back Le'Veon Bell takes a leap for a touchdown during the first half. The Spartans defeated the Chippewas, 41-7, on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012, at Kelly/Shorts Stadium in Mount Pleasant, Mich. Justin Wan/The State News
“I could tell there were a lot of hurt faces out there,” Bell said of crossing the goal line. “I just want to thank my guys for getting me in there.”
The Spartans went on to finish off the Chippewas 41-7 behind Bell’s two touchdown, 70 yard performance and the leadership of junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell, who threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns on 20-for-31 passing.
Maxwell completed passes to seven different receivers, but none was more important to him than junior wide receiver Bennie Fowler, who caught a personal best eight passes for 99 yards and a score.
“Bennie did a great job, had a great game, ran great routes, was on time,” Maxwell said. “(Missed a couple, but) that’s the chemistry we’ve been building for a couple years now so to finally come out here and have that connection on the field felt good.”
MSU’s offense outgained the Chippewas 495-245 in total offense as the Spartans torched Central Michigan for 322 yards in the air.
As a whole, Bell said he was impressed by the effort he saw in his teammates in what could have been a classic trap game scenario — playing a lesser team sandwiched between two primetime match ups.
“We worked hard, went out there and competed and showed the nation we’re not just a running team — we can pass the ball too,” he said. “We’re just going to keep getting better and moving forward.”
On defense, the Spartans held their opponent to zero offensive touchdowns for the second straight time as Central Michigan’s only score came when redshirt freshman quarterback Connor Cook threw an interception returned 55 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Junior defensive end William Gholston led the defensive effort, recording seven tackles — two for loss and MSU’s first sack of the season. The Spartans also kept Central Michigan quarterback Ryan Radcliff on his toes, forcing two interceptions while the senior was under pressure from MSU’s front seven.
“I don’t think (Radcliff) was was really affected by the pass rush too early,” Central Michigan head coach Dan Enos said about his quarterback. “(But) I think as the game went on, (MSU) hit him a few times a little bit more than we’d like … and they’re good players. We knew it was going to happen.”
The defense forced Central Michigan to beat them through the air as it was able to hold the Chippewas to 72 total rushing yards on 22 attempts.
Heading into No. 22 Notre Dame next Saturday night at Spartan Stadium, Gholston said he expects to see the defense continue to dominate opposing offenses through the season.
“Once the ball gets rolling, we’re rolling,” he said. “Now all we have to do is roll from the beginning.”