Rabid excitement filled DeMartin Stadium after a back-to-back goal from MSU defender Will Perkins and a one-touch spin attack by forward Farai Mutatu sent Michigan State men's soccer ahead of Oakland, 2-1.
However, it was still early in the game, with another 70 minutes left in regulation play.
The question stood: could the Spartans hold off their opponent for that long? Or, would they crumble at the claws of the Golden Grizzlies, who were hungry with desperation to steal a win?
Ultimately, it was the Spartans who would prevail Friday night, defeating in-state foe Oakland, 3-1.
Coming off a tough loss to Akron on Monday, the Spartans made a switch in their starting lineup, substituting Owen Ogunwale and Dante Morrissette for Louis Sala and Chase Inscho.
The Spartans had a controlled run of the play right from kickoff, but it was Oakland forward Mikey Ketteman who found the back of the net first, chipping one straight over goalie Hunter Morse's off an assist from midfielder Dylan Borczak.
"We started off really well and then gave up a goal out of the blue," Michigan State Head Coach Damon Rensing said postgame. "That was the first time we've trailed this season, other than the last 30 seconds to Akron. For us to go down a goal and then to keep pushing and keep our composure ... was good."
Rensing said goals can come in waves, and when you have players like Perkins, Mutatu, midfielder Michael Miller and forward Gianni Ferri, a lot can happen in a short amount of time.
By the end of the night, the Spartans had 17 total shots-on-goal, eventually scoring a third and final goal off the foot of Sala, assisted by Miller, that solidified a promised victory.
"We were aggressive going forward," Mutatu said postgame. "We kept the pressure on them. The goal that happened, Gianni played a great ball in to me and I felt the defender behind my back. I thought I could have space behind me to shoot and turn. You don't score if you don't shoot, so I just made sure to get on target. I'm happy to get the goal."
Morse held down the green-and-white net like a brick wall, snagging two jaw-dropping saves that could have changed the entire narrative had they went in.
"It's some big pressure, through every game," Morse said. "These games come down to the wire, pretty much. I think the third goal really helped us to push through, and, after we got that third goal, we kind of stunned them a little bit."
The Spartans (2-1-0) will host Bowling Green on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 6 to conclude their homestand. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. at DeMartin Stadium.
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