Michigan State’s season opener became a squeaker, as Connor Heyward’s 13-yard touchdown run with two minutes remaining helped lift the Spartans to a 38-31 win over Utah State at Spartan Stadium Friday night.
Played in front of more than 73,000, Spartan fans spent a good portion of the night wondering if they might become the victim of a huge road upset at the hands of the Aggies (0-1), who only gained 344 yards of total offense, gave up 452 yards on defense but managed to hang in there and take the lead, 31-30, with 5:05 left in the game.
The Aggies scored on Darwin Thompson’s 1-yard touchdown run. Thompson scored twice, but rushed for just 28 yards as the Aggies only gained 25 net yards on the ground. Fortunately the offense was efficient in the red zone, scoring three times.
Still, Michigan State (1-0) had more than enough time to take the victory. Their game-winning drive went 75 yards in nine plays and actually featured two touchdowns. The first was called back, as MSU quarterback Brian Lewerke tossed an option pitch to running back LJ Scott, who ran the ball in, only to see the score come back due to a penalty.
A couple of plays later the Spartans actually ran the same exact play, an option pitch to Lewerke’s right, only this time Heyward took the pitch and ran in for the score, setting off a wild celebration in the student section.
Heyward scored earlier in the game, a 17-yarder, to start off the third quarter, giving Michigan State a 27-14 lead which, at the time, appeared safe. But the Aggies answered with a field goal from Dominik Eberle and a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown by Gaje Ferguson to cut Michigan State’s lead to three points entering the fourth quarter.
The Spartans missed a chance to slam the door shut early in the fourth, as a drive sputtered out and led to a 24-yard field goal by Matt Coughlin, which gave the Spartans a 6-point lead.
Scott led the Spartans with 84 yards rushing, but didn’t score. Heyward added 42 yards rushing. Lewerke threw for 287 yards and 2 touchdowns and rushed for another 31. Joe Bachie led the Spartans with 11 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. Cody White and Felton Davis each caught touchdown passes.
Utah State got a solid game out of quarterback Jordan Love, who threw for 319 yards. He threw two interceptions, including the one that effectively ended the game in the final minute. Dax Raymond caught 7 passes for 76 yards, while David Woodward had an impressive 16 tackles to lead the Aggies.
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