It was Senior Day at Spartan Stadium, and the last home game of the season. A season where MSU has not lost at home, and has only lost one game to their nine wins. The Spartans were the clear favorite against the 4-6 Boilermakers.
The Spartans drew first blood with a 24-yard Kirk Cousins to Mark Dell TD about six minutes in.
Then the wheels seemed to come off. A minute later, Purdue breaks lose an 80-yard run up the middle for a quick response. A minutes and a half later, Purdue picks off a Cousins pass for a 35-yard pick-six. With the score Purdue 14, Michigan State 7, maybe this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park after all. The Boilermakers had all the momentum and Spartan Stadium was in a state of shock.
Thank God for Edwin Baker. Early in the second quarter, Baker powered through for a 19-yard TD. The score should have been tied, but Dan Conroy hit the upright and the ball deflected away making it 14-13 Purdue. Before the half, Purdue scored again making it 21-13 at the half. Cousins was 12-13 passing at the halfway point, but that one miss was a very costly one.
Purdue scored in the third quarter opening up their lead to 28-13. It was at this point that ESPN started running UPSET ALERT across the bottom of the screen and the commentators were talking about how a MSU loss would leave Ohio and Wisconsin at the top of the Big Ten battle for the Rose Bowl. I was getting pretty pissy right about now, truth be told.
And then the fourth quarter started. It was like someone turned the electricity back on.
Chris L. Rucker intercepts a Rob Henry pass and returns it 20-yards to the Purdue 20 yard line. B.J. Cunningham caps off a six play drive to score on a 5-yard pass play. 28-20 Purdue.
Purdue responded with a 54 yard kickoff return. MSU’s defense holds but the Boilermakers do manage a 52-yard FG. 31-20 Purdue.
Now the Spartans were fired up and everything was clicking. 15-yard pass to Gantt. 7-yard run from Baker. 10-yard pass to Linthicum. 28-yard pass to Cunningham. And finally, a 9-yard pass to Dell for the TD. Holy statastic, the two-point conversion is good too. 31-28 Purdue.
With 6:54 left, Purdue begins at the 20 and the MSU defense stopped them cold. On fourth down, Denicos Allen flies through the air and blocks Purdue’s punt. Johnny Adams recovers on the Purdue three yard line. We are freakin’ out at this point.
Second down, it’s a keeper as QB Kirk Cousins runs it in for the TD. For the first time since early in the first quater, the Spartans take the lead 35-31.
4:24 remains on the clock as Purdue starts their drive on their 34 yard line. It looks like another four-and-out when Rob Henry completes a 14-yard pass on a fourth and six. The Boilermakers march all the way to the MSU 20 yard line when their drive stalls at a crucial fourth and eight. Rob Henry is flushed from the pocket and takes a huge Greg Jones hit just as he releases the ball. Chris Norman intercepts the pass for MSU and it’s all over in East Lansing.
It was quite a game. The Spartans never gave up, and they fought back to win.
MSU was 30-40 passing for 286 yards in the air with three TDs and one INT. Mark Dell was The Man with eight receptions for 108 yards and two TDs. B.J. Cunningham also had a great day with six catches for 51 yards and a TD. Eight other Spartans caught passes including four for Keshawn Martin who was back after missing a few games to an injury.
Wisconsin and Ohio State both won Saturday leaving the three-way tie for the Big Ten unchanged.
Looking ahead to the final week of the season, MSU goes on the road to face the 7-4 Penn State Nittany Lions. The last time the Spartans won in Happy Valley was 1965. Ugh. Well, it’s been a year of breaking records and streaks, so let’s believe in MSU. MSU is 11-14 versus Penn State, and the last win was in 2007 in East Lansing.
Wisconsin hosts the 7-4 Northwestern Wildcats at Camp Randall. The Badgers look mighty tough, especially at home. And with Dan Persa out, I’d say that Wisconsin is a lock.
Ohio State hosts Michigan for The Game. OSU is 43-57-6 against the UofM squad, but those 57 losses are mostly ancient history. The Buckeyes have won eight of the last 1o games with their last loss being back in 2003. I do think that anything can happen in The Game, but Michigan simply has a very lame defense which OSU will dismantle easily.
Speaking of Michigan, they beat Purdue last week (I predicted a loss, I was wrong) but lost 48-28 to Wisconsin this week. The Badgers simply ran all over the Wolverine’s (lack of) defense. I would have loved a Michigan win, which is not something you’ll hear me say very often. Michigan 7-4 and will likely finish 8-4.
Notre Dame on the other hand has cleaned up their act. They beat-up on Utah last week (again, I predicted a loss and was wrong) at home, which was just the right win at the right moment for Coach Kelly and The Fighting Irish. This week they took on Army at Yankee Stadium and won 27-3 in the green jerseys. The Irish are 6-5 and bowl eligible. ND finishes their season next week at USC. I think Southern Cal will beat the Irish at home, but it will be close.
Great job this week Spartans. I know Kirk Cousins is suffering from a shoulder and an ankle sprain, and he is playing in a lot of pain. I hope that he can make it one more game before he can lay off and heal. Penn State is going to be tough, but they are beatable. It can be done.
As always, GO GREEN!
State was not up to par on the ground with only 95 yards rushing. Edwin Baker accounted for 90 of those yards and he passed the 1,000 yard mark on the season.