The trip to West Lafayette, Indiana was not a memorable one for No. 5 Michigan State as they were trounced by Purdue, 40-29.
MSU did not get off to the start it wanted. Junior running back Kenneth Walker III took his second carry of the game for a 28-yard gain and the Spartans looked to be in business at the Purdue 38. Two carries later, Walker cut back to the left and lost the ball on the way to the ground.
The Boilermakers took over and drove down the field with ease, finding star junior wide receiver David Bell early. Michigan State was close to getting the third-down defensive stop five yards shy of the goal line, but Purdue fifth-year quarterback Aidan O’Connell slipped away from a couple of pass-rushers and fired a pass to Bell in the back of the end zone.
Michigan State would answer with a touchdown of its own, set up with a 35-yard play action completion from redshirt sophomore quarterback Payton Thorne to redshirt senior tight end Connor Heyward. Then, Thorne shook off a defender, rolled out to his right and fired a 26-yard touchdown to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Tre Mosley, who started in this game as the No. 2 receiver with redshirt junior Jalen Nailor unavailable after missing the second half last week.
After trading a pair of punts, Purdue retook a seven-point lead early in the second quarter when O’Connell threw an eight-yard fade to junior wide receiver Broc Thompson in the back corner of the end zone.
MSU moved the ball all the way to the Boilermakers’ 15-yard line, but a 15-yard chop block penalty by senior offensive lineman Kevin Jarvis backed the Spartans way up. Freshman kicker Stephan Rusnak, who got the start over graduate kicker Matt Coghlin, trotted onto the field to attempt a 43-yard field goal. The Clarkston, Michigan native went wide right on his first career field goal attempt, and MSU stuck at seven points.
Purdue extended its lead to two possessions with a creative trick play that saw the ball move in numerous different directions.
Looking to stay in the game with some points before the half, the Spartans turned to their Heisman Trophy candidate. Facing a critical fourth and two deep in Purdue territory, Walker got the handoff, bounced it out to the right and raced into the endzone untouched for a 14-yard score. Walker touched the ball on all but two plays on the drive, pushing him to 103 rushing yards in the half and a 21-14 Purdue halftime lead.
Coming out of the locker room, Michigan State started the half off just how it wanted. Sophomore defensive end Jeff Pietrowski forced a fumble and sophomore safety Darius Snow pounced on the loose ball for the early turnover.
The Spartans wasted no time with the favorable field position, utilizing the legs of its quarterback. Thorne took a designed run up the middle and rumbled for a 32-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 21 apiece.
Purdue answered right back, continuing the back-and-forth brawl. The Boilermakers got some aid from MSU's defense, first from an unnecessary roughness penalty by junior cornerback Chester Kimbrough, then a targeting penalty by redshirt freshman defensive tackle Simeon Barrow on the very next play. The two plays not only gifted Purdue 30 yards but also knocked Barrow out for the remainder of the game and the first half of next week's game versus Maryland.
Junior running back King Deorue then plunged into the end zone from one yard out to take back the lead and never look back. The Boilermakers added a pair of field goals to make it 34-21 early in the fourth quarter, and the Michigan State offense slouched and could not keep up.
However, the game was still in the balance with just over nine minutes to play. The Spartans drove down the field after just 49 yards of offense in the third quarter but were stalled and faced with a 4th and four at the Purdue nine. Thorne took the snap out of the shotgun, fired to the flat to his right, but a softly thrown and tightly-covered pass was picked off by fifth-year cornerback Dedrick Mackey.
The Boilermakers tacked on a field goal to make it a 16-point lead, and the Michigan State offense all of a sudden woke up. Mosley caught an 11-yard touchdown and redshirt freshman tight end Maliq Carr, who transferred to MSU from Purdue, hauled in a two-point conversion to make things interesting with five minutes to play.
Like it had all game, the Michigan State defense could not get off the field and Purdue chipped away at the clock. A fourth field goal from Purdue made it a 40-29 game with less than a minute to play and ultimately put a seal on the game.
Walker finished the contest with 23 carries for 146 yards and a touchdown.
Michigan State heads home as they look to right the ship against Maryland in East Lansing.
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