After a week off, Michigan State football stunned the No. 8 (in CFP ratings) Northwestern Wildcats, winning 29-20 as the Michigan State secondary and Michigan State run game came up clutch in crunch time.
The Spartans would finish with three interceptions and 195 rushing yards on the day.
Michigan State began the game with a haymaker as linebacker Antjuan Simmons came up huge on Northwestern's first offensive drive of the day. On a fourth down deep inside Michigan State’s territory, Simmons burst through the line of scrimmage to wrap up Isaiah Bowser for a tackle for loss.
On the following play, quarterback Rocky Lombardi, who drew the start after being benched against Indiana the game prior, found Jalen Nailor for a 75-yard touchdown pass.
Northwestern’s next drive would look eerily similar to their previous one, as on fourth down the Wildcats would go for it again, only as Shakur Brown intercepted Peyton Ramsey and returned inside the Wildcats’ 20 yard line. The drive would end in three points, putting MSU up 10-0.
The Michigan State defense would continue their strong play, forcing a three and out on the next drive.
The Spartans continued to step on the gas as they put together the longest drive of the season and finished it with another touchdown pass, this time to Jayden Reed to put the Spartans up 17-0.
Northwestern would not go away without a fight. The Wildcats would finish the half hitting two field goals to cut the lead to 11 at the half. Cornerback Angelo Grose was instrumental in holding the Wildcats to two field goals with big hits and pass breakups.
With just seconds left in the first half, Drew Beesley shut down any hopes for the Northwestern offense to put up points by sacking Ramsey to end the half.
Northwestern would start the half on fire as Ramsey picked apart the Michigan State secondary to move inside the Spartans' redzone. On fourth and goal, the Wildcats would convert as Ramsey ran out to his right and walked into the endzone to make it 17-13 as the Spartans stacked the line of scrimmage.
Northwestern would continue to take care of business on their next drive as they started inside Spartan territory. Ramsey on third and 12 at the Spartan 25 yard line to extend the drive inside the 10 by finding Riley Lees. The Wildcats would put up seven more points to make it 20 unanswered as Cam Porter rushed for a touchdown to make it 20-17.
The Michigan State offense looked dead in the water after being held scoreless after putting down 17. Lombardi seemed to seal that as he threw an interception inside MSU territory as the Wildcats looked to go up two scores.
Then the turnover bug finally went the Spartans' way as the ball popped loose on the following play and the Spartans recovered near midfield. Nailor then set the green and white up by snatching a ball from off of his toes for a first down at the 25. Matt Coghlin would finish the drive with a field goal from 44 yards out.
The game was now down to who could make plays down the stretch to win.
Brown struck first.
On a third down play Brown ran toward the ball and collided with Berkeley Holman and was able to come up with an interception. Holman would be seriously injured and would have to be carted off after a lengthy delay.
It was now up to Lombardi to make something happen. On third down and 10, Lombardi scrambled out for a first down to eventually set up a field goal attempt for Coghlin. Coghlin from nearly 50 yards out would nail a field goal to put the Spartans up 23-20 with three and a half minutes left.
Now it was the Northwestern offense vs. the Michigan State defense.
Safety Xavier Henderson was the one to make that play as on third and long he broke up what seemed like a surefire catch by Lees near midfield to force a punt.
Michigan State would continue their next drive by draining the Wildcats’ stash of timeouts as Lombardi on a crucial third down scampered for a first down with two minutes left to go.
Northwestern had a chance with 0:25 remaining in the game, but the defense held strong to wrap up the game as they forced a fumble and ended the game with a touchdown.
Connor Heyward finished the game with 96 rushing yards and Brown would finish with two interceptions.
Michigan State’s game next week is already in danger as Ohio State, the day prior to their matchup versus Illinois, had to cancel due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
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