On Saturday, the Michigan State Spartans (2-2, 0-2 Big Ten) were looking to end a two-game skid, their first such losing streak since 2009. They returned home after a disappointing 24-21 overtime loss to Indiana last week, stepping out of conference this week to play independent foe BYU Cougars (2-3), who survived a shootout with Toledo at home last week to end a three-game losing streak of their own.
This is the first ever meeting between MSU and BYU and the first of a scheduled home-and-home series between the two programs.
BYU got the ball to open the game and marched down the field into Spartan territory. But faced with a 4th down, the Cougars decided to go for it and could not convert. Michigan State turned that into a 15-play scoring drive, exhausting a little more than seven minutes in the process. The drive was capped by an 8-yard run from tailback Gerald Holmes to give MSU an early 7-0 lead. Holmes on that drive alone carried the ball eight times for 24 yards, while quarterback Tyler O’Connor was 6/8 for 46 yards on that drive.
There was nothing doing for either team the rest of the 1st quarter.
(THRU 1ST: MSU LEADS 7-0)
It was a lot of the same in the 2nd quarter for both teams, a lot of empty possessions. BYU however in the middle of the quarter used 13 plays to get inside the MSU-5 and again, facing a 4th down, the Cougars could not convert and came up empty, giving the ball back to the Spartans. MSU was able to safely escape the shadow of their own goal post but not before punting away.
The Cougars two drives later managed the clock very well as the first half drew to a close, setting themselves up with 31-yard field goal as time expired to cut the MSU lead to 7-3.
Spartans defensive tackle Malik McDowell was absent for the Spartans in the first half due to a targeting penalty he received in their game last week against the Hoosiers.
(HALF: MSU LEADS 7-3)
Michigan State received the ball to open the second half and got one first down before having to punt it away. BYU meanwhile again managed the clock and mixed it up on offense very well, using 13 plays, 73 yards and roughly seven and half minutes of game time to get into the end zone for their first touchdown and lead of the game, thanks to a TD pass from QB Taysom Hill to receiver Colby Pearson from 4 yards out.
The Cougars then forced a three-and-out from the Spartans to get the ball back and continued their momentum. They carried the ball back into Spartan territory, just outside the red zone but not before the quarter came to a close.
(THRU 3RD: BYU LEADS 10-7)
The drive for BYU continued in the early minutes of the 4th. It stayed alive thanks to their second 4th-down conversion of the afternoon. And on the very next play, the quarterback Hill on the keeper ran it in from 12 yards out, a huge touchdown to make it 17-7 in favor of the Cougars and dig a deeper hole for a Spartan offense that has just 112 yards at this point.
Hoping for some sort of spark, MSU put in redshirt junior QB Damion Terry on the ensuing drive. O’Connor finished 7/11 for 58 yards. It appeared the move was working for the Spartans, Terry was 2/3 for 22 yards and converted a 4th down, but he forced an errant throw and threw an interception.
BYU, with the option to run the clock out, opted to go for the jugular. They needed just three plays after the 40-yard interception return to score again and virtually put the game away, capped by a Jamaal Williams 8-yard tote up the gut, making it 24-7 Cougars.
Terry was back in for MSU’s next drive and drove the Spartans down 75 yards in ten plays, using just under three minutes to jump-start some sort of comeback. Terry ran it in from 1 yard out to make it 24-14, BYU.
Michigan State opted to kick it away and hope for defensive stops to get the ball back quickly, but BYU was able to convert on some big downs while forcing MSU to exhaust their timeouts. A big 62-yard run from Williams put the Cougars back in the red zone and three plays later, they are back in the end zone, courtesy of Williams again, making it 31-14, all but putting the game on ice.
FINAL – BYU 31, MSU 14
- T. O’Connor & D. Terry: 13/21, 121 yards, INT
- G. Holmes: 15 carries, 57 yards, TD; 4 rec, 22 yards