EVANSTON, Illinois — Mark Dantonio: The winningest head coach in Michigan State history.
It's now official.
A week after Dantonio's party was spoiled in Spartan Stadium, Michigan State went on the road and got the job done. The Spartans defeated Northwestern, 31-10, Saturday afternoon at Ryan Field, giving Dantonio his 110th career win, passing Duffy Daugherty for most in Michigan State history.
“Big win. Big, big win," Dantonio said following the game. "Coming off a tough loss last weekend and being able to handle adversity and get through things. I'm very proud of our football team in terms of what we were able to accomplish. A lot tighter game than you would think the score would indicate. Got a lot of respect for Northwestern and what they were able to do.”
The Spartans beat the Wildcats for the first time since 2013.
Offense scores, stalls and scores again
Michigan State's offense came out with their heads on fire. Then, they cooled off. Then found their stride again right before halftime to give the Spartans a 14-3 lead at the break.
Michigan State opened the game on a nine-play, 75-yard drive that finished with a 5-yard touchdown run by Elijah Collins.
Collins finished with 17 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown.
Then came the struggles.
The next four drives for the Spartans ended in punts and a fumble by Cody White on a punt return. Michigan State was plagued by penalties and negative plays that consistently set it back. On the Spartans' second drive, a sack and false start on back-to-back plays ended the possession before it could get going.
On the next possession, a catch by Matt Seybert was negated due to a personal foul call on Connor Heyward. The next play was four-yard loss on a run by Anthony Williams, and the Spartans had to punt.
MSU finished with five penalties for 47 yards.
After a Josiah Scott interception with just over 90 seconds left in the half, the Spartans marched back down the field and found the end zone on an 11-yard catch by Cody White from Brian Lewerke.
"That was big, to be able to get the pick," Lewerke said. "I had a feeling we were going to get the ball, but on the 10-yard line versus the 30, wherever Josiah (Scott) picked it off, it was a big play for us and I’m glad we were able to score before the half.”
Lewerke finished 18-for-31 for 228 yards and three touchdowns, while White added four catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.
Michigan State's opening possession in the second half ended in a missed 40-yard field goal by Matt Coghlin, his fourth consecutive miss dating back to last weekend against Arizona State. Coghlin finally got one to split the uprights when he converted a 26-yard field goal before the end of the third quarter.
The offense got back on track after the miss, ending their next possession in a 8-yard touchdown pass from Lewerke to Seybert. Seybert found the end zone again, this time from 7-yards out, to extend MSU's lead to 31-3.
Seybert finished with four receptions for 28 yards and two scores.
Dominant defense again
The goal proposed by Dantonio this week was for his defense to be perfect. They were 10 points away from accomplishing that.
MSU's defense finally got the help it needed from the offense, and the end-product was a decisive win. The Wildcats had chances to score. On their first drive, Northwestern moved the ball all the way to the goal line. Then, the Spartan defense turned into a brick wall as they stuffed the Wildcats on three-consecutive run plays to force a turnover on downs.
Quarterback Hunter Johnson finished 15 of 26 for 88 yards and an interception by Josiah Scott before being pulled before the fourth quarter. Drew Beesley and Joe Bachie added an interception off of backup quarterback Aidan Smith.
Northwestern managed a 39-yard field goal by Charlie Kuhbander in its third possession, but that was all it could muster against the Spartan defense until late in the game when Drake Anderson ran one in from two yards out.
The Wildcats finished with 265 yards, with 139 of them coming on the ground. Anderson finished with a team-high 91 yards on 17 carries. Bachie led the Spartans with 13 tackles, one quarterback hurry and two pass breakups.
“Business as usual, you know," Bachie said. "We talked about last week, refocusing and getting back down to business, and that’s what we did this week. You know, offensively, defensively, we did a great job. We focused together and got Coach D. his win today.”
Michigan State (3-1) returns to East Lansing next week where it will host Indiana on homecoming, Sept. 28, 2019 at Spartan Stadium (3:30 p.m., BTN).