East Lansing, MI – After two weeks of nearly no offense and an inability to hang onto the football, a different Michigan State team showed up against Northwestern on Saturday.
Rocky Lombardi retook his place under center, the Spartan defense came to play, and the MSU run game was the best it's been all year, even if that's not saying much.
The Wildcats' first three drives resulted in a turnover on downs, an interception, and a punt before kicking two field goals, bringing them within 11-points.
It started with DT Naquan Jones blowing up the middle on fourth-and-1, freeing up Antjuan Simmons to make a terrific tackle in the backfield, stuffing NU's chance of converting.
Two plays later, Lombardi threw a well-placed deep ball to Jalen Nailor for a 75-yard touchdown (the longest play NU allowed all season).
The next series, CB Shakur Brown intercepted Peyton Ramsey's pass and returned it 54-yards, resulting in three-points for MSU.
Michigan State followed it up with its longest scoring drive of the year; 13-plays that went 85-yards in just under six-minutes, ending on a 15-yard toss from Lombardi to Jayden Reed.
Oh, and MSU finally had a breakthrough running the football, entering the locker room at 134 yards on 27 carries, easily its best performance of 2020, thanks to good blocking and a sneaky good outing from Connor Heyward, who ran harder than I had seen in a while.
Yet, there was still work to be done considering Northwestern shut out four of its five opponents in the second half.
And they wouldn't make it easy, as NU scored a touchdown on its first drive following halftime (10-plays, 75-yards).
Michigan State desperately needed to respond.
After surrendering 20 straight points (the largest blown lead since squandering a 25-point advantage vs. Illinois last year), they would.
All appeared lost for the Spartans when Lombardi threw an interception (an ill-advised decision).
Yet, NU bailed MSU out, fumbling on the next play and providing Matt Coghlin with the opportunity to kick a 44-yard field goal, which he made – tying the contest.
The Spartans would not be denied; Brown picked off Ramsey for a second time on a bang-bang play, setting Michigan State up for the game-winning kick.
Not only does MSU upset the eighth-ranked team in the country, but they also give Mel Tucker his first home victory as the 25th head football coach in school history.
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