EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — Michigan State was determined to get back on track following a stunning loss last week.
Brian Lewerke had three touchdown passes, Elijah Collins added a rushing TD and the Spartans bounced back with a 31-10 victory over Northwestern on Saturday.
Lewerke completed 18 of 31 passes for 228 yards, Collins had 76 yards rushing on 17 carries and tight end Matt Seybert had two TD receptions as Michigan State (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten Conference) snapped a three-game losing streak against the Wildcats (1-2, 0-1).
“I was very impressed with our workman-like attitude today,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “If something negative happened, we just lined up and played.”
Michigan State lost 10-7 to Arizona State last week after an apparent game-tying field goal was negated by penalty.
“We talked about last week, refocusing and getting back down to business, and that’s what we did,” said linebacker Joe Bachie, who had 13 solo tackles and an interception.
The win was the 110th for Dantonio at Michigan State, which makes him the winningest coach in program history. Dantonio, who had been tied with Duffy Daugherty, is 110-52 in 13 seasons.
“I think those are things you sit back at a later date and say, ‘OK, did this, did that,'” Dantonio said. “It’s not an individual thing. There’s just so many people working toward it.”
Northwestern had its eight-game winning streak in Big Ten regular-season games snapped. The Wildcats had won 15 of 16 regular-season conference games.
Quarterback Hunter Johnson completed 15 of 26 passes for 88 yards with an interception before being pulled in the fourth quarter.
Running back Drake Anderson had 86 yards rushing on 16 carries with a touchdown.
“Really disappointed in the outcome,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “Like I told the guys in the locker room, I’ve had my nose bloodied before.
“Right now, offensively it’s chicken-or-egg. Is it confidence or execution? Which one comes first? It’s gotta be a combination of both.”
The turning point came with just under two minutes left in the first half.
Trailing 7-3, Northwestern faced a third-and-20 from its own 48. Instead of playing it safe and punting to make Michigan State go the length of the field, Johnson forced a throw and was intercepted by Josiah Scott at the MSU 38.
The Spartans then put together an 11-play, 62-yard drive — capped by an 11-yard TD pass from Lewerke to Cody White — for a 14-3 halftime lead.
“That was big,” Lewerke said. “I had a feeling we were gonna get the ball, but getting it on the 10-yard line versus the 30 or wherever Josiah picked it off is a big difference.”
Michigan State: The Spartans bounced back with a dominating performance. The defense contained the rushing game and repeatedly forced the struggling Northwestern offense into obvious passing situations.
“Opportunistic on offense and dominant on defense,” Dantonio said.
Northwestern: To have any chance at repeating as Big Ten West champs, the offense must get turned around – and quickly. Johnson continues to struggle with consistency and a very conservative game plan by the coaches isn’t helping him.
“We’re giving up too many explosive plays,” Fitzgerald said. “Not getting enough explosive plays. Not sustaining drives. We’re typically a complimentary team and right now we’re not playing that way.
“It’s my fault. We’ve got to get it fixed and we’re going to keep working at it.”
About the only thing that didn’t go right for Michigan State was the players’ plan to celebrate Dantonio’s record.
“We wanted to pour some water on him, but they dumped out the coolers before we could,” Lewerke said. “That kind of sucks.”
Trailing 7-0 in the first quarter, Northwestern running back Isaiah Bower appeared to score on first-and-goal from the 7, but was ruled down a foot shy of the goal line. The Michigan State defense then stuffed three straight runs to get the ball back.
“Huge stop,” Dantonio said. “That’s like a turnover to me.”
Michigan State: Host Indiana on Saturday.
Northwestern: At No. 13 Wisconsin on Saturday.
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