MSU football survives late rally to defeat Purdue 45-31
No. 8 MSU football experienced deja vu on Saturday.
For a second consecutive week, the Spartans nearly blew a 20-plus point lead in the fourth quarter. But again, the defense came up with an interception to seal the victory over Purdue, 45-31.
Purdue (3-4 overall, 1-2 Big Ten) made the game interesting late in the fourth quarter, trimming MSU’s lead to just one touchdown with less than seven minutes to go. But junior linebacker Darien Harris took an interception to the endzone from 15 yards out to preserve the Spartan victory.
“Our team, again, responded in the second half, came out very fast in the second half scored 21 points, and then it was back to the same old, ya know, trying to hold off a tough team,” head coach Mark Dantonio said following the game. “I’ve said all week long that Purdue is a football team that is an improved football team and continues to move forward.”
Junior quarterback Connor Cook finished 19-of-37 for 238 passing yards and three touchdowns and one pick . Senior wide receiver Tony Lippett was once again Cook’s favorite target, reeling in seven receptions for 138 yards and one touchdown. With another touchdown, Lippett extended his touchdown streak to eight games and now has nine total touchdowns on the season.
Even more impressive was the Spartan running game, which finished with 294 yards. Senior running back Jeremy Langford led the group with 104 yards on 13 carries. Senior running back Nick Hill also had a solid afternoon, recording 72 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Purdue.
MSU scored on its first four possessions, starting with a 39-yard touchdown connection between Cook and Lippett. The touchdown came less than four minutes into the game.
Purdue would respond the following drive with a 36-yard field goal from junior kicker Paul Griggs to cut the Spartan lead to 7-3. But from there on, MSU put its foot down on the gas pedal.
The next two drives resulted in Spartan touchdowns, including a two-yard run by Hill and a two-yard pass from Cook to sophomore tight end Josiah Price. The back-to-back touchdowns put MSU up 21-3 with 11:37 left in the second quarter.
Purdue would rally, however, punching in two touchdowns opposite of one Spartan field goal to send the game 24-17 into half.
The Spartans used back-to-back three and outs to create back-to-back touchdowns, pushing the MSU lead to 38-17 early in the second half. The first Spartan score came on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Cook to junior wide receiver Aaron Burbridge and Hill punched in a four yard rushing touchdown on the second score.
MSU appeared to be in position to finish off the Boilermakers, but a Cook interception gave Purdue life. The interception eventually led to a fourth-down, 52-yard touchdown run by senior running back Akeem Hunt to cut MSU’s lead to 38-24.
Purdue continued the momentum for the following possession. The Boilermakers were able to stop junior defensive tackle Lawrence Thomas on a questionable fake punt to give Purdue great starting field position in MSU territory. The drive would result in another Hunt touchdown, this time from three yards out to make it 38-31 with 6:19 left in the game.
Hunt’s touchdown would be the closest the game would get after Harris returned an interception for a game-clinching Spartan touchdown.
MSU finished with 532 total yards compared to 340 for Purdue. Following the game Purdue senior defensive end Ryan Russell said the Boilermaker defense didn’t play well enough to steal the victory.
“Defense wasn’t good enough,” Russell said during a post game Purdue press conference. “The offense put enough points up for us to win, but the defense needs to come through.”
MSU returns to the field next Saturday when the Spartans travel to Memorial Stadium to take on Indiana. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. and will start the second half of the season for MSU. Dantonio said the Spartans are continuing to move forward and will look at the Hoosiers as the next step in pursuit of a Big Ten Championship.
“We continue to just lay one brick at a time with what we are trying to do,” Dantonio said. “Our vision is to go one game at a time through this thing, so we’re 5-1 (and) go to the next half.”