Ann Arbor, MI – The Spartans entered Michigan Stadium 21.5-point underdogs.
No one gave them much of a chance to leave with a victory.
Yet, after not turning the ball over once and playing sound football for 60-minutes straight, the Paul Bunyan Trophy is heading back to East Lansing.
"We all understand this is a special game," Mel Tucker said after winning his first game as the MSU head coach. "It dates back over 100-years. Our players were very focused this week."
Following MSU's poor showing against Rutgers, the Spartans took care of the football, received adequate push/pass protection from its offensive line, and saw several playmakers step up on both sides of the ball.
Michigan State couldn't afford to make mistakes defensively, especially after the Wolverines dropped nearly 50-points on Minnesota in its season-opener.
They responded in a big way.
MSU forced Michigan to punt eight times, made QB Joe Milton uncomfortable, and kept them out of the red zone on multiple occasions.
"It's big. I'm definitely happy. I'm definitely excited," senior linebacker Antjuan Simmons said. "I said it last week after the game, that we would be a better team this weekend. I said that. I meant it."
Offensively, the Spartans did everything they should have done against Rutgers.
The o-line provided enough of a push for 126 rushing yards on 38 carries, which opened the door for Rocky Lombardi and the passing attack.
Lombardi completed 53% of his passes (17-for-32) for 323 yards (third-most by an MSU QB against Michigan) and three touchdowns.
But more than that, everyone discovered their new starting quarterback has an accurate deep ball.
And chemistry with one receiver in particular.
The Spartans gashed Michigan's defense for nine plays of 15 yards or more through the air and unearthed true freshman wide receiver Ricky White, who caught eight passes for 196 yards and a score (second-most receiving yards vs. the Wolverines).
On top of that, Connor Heyward, the unsung hero of today, finished with two touchdowns, including the game-winner.
"He's worked really hard ... he works hard every day, and he's about the team," said Tucker.
It was a collective effort, one the Michigan State fanbase desperately needed to see.
In seven days, Tucker managed to breathe life back into the football program while erasing nearly every doubt developed about him, his coaching staff, and team in the process.
"I just thought they were ready to play a physical, sixty-minute, four-quarter game. They did that, and we're just proud to bring that Paul Bunyan Trophy back to East Lansing where it belongs," Tucker said. "State fans, this one is for you."
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