East Lansing — On Friday night every week, Mark Dantonio shows his football team a movie.
This week, as No. 5 Michigan State prepared to host No. 7 Oregon in the first top-10 matchup in Spartan Stadium since 1966, he opted instead for episodes of "Hard Knocks," the HBO program that this year followed training camp with the Houston Texans.
What he could have shown was any installment of the "Fast and Furious" franchise, because that's exactly what he saw on Saturday night.
The offensive firepower was on full display in front of a raucous crowd of 76,526 as the Spartans and Ducks took shots at each other. In the end, Michigan State went to its bread and butter, getting a huge sack in the final minutes to preserve a 31-28 victory.
"That's what it reminded me of," Dantonio said, referencing the movies about street racing. "It was up-and-down, a great battle out there."
It was a battle the Spartans (2-0) desperately wanted after last year's loss at Oregon, when a nine-point third-quarter lead disappeared in a blink and Michigan State made the long trip home after one of its most disappointing losses.
And thanks to a solid running game, some timely conversions and a defense that made big plays in the fourth quarter, the Spartans got the big non-conference victory that has eluded them for several years.
"I'd say it's probably one of the best feelings in the world," senior center Jack Allen said. "I honestly was thinking about this on Thursday about what it would be like to walk off the field after this Saturday game with a win. Feels unbelievable."
For quarterback Connor Cook, it was a chance at a bit of redemption.
He didn't let teammates talk about last year's game this offseason and he put plenty of blame on himself for the offense's second-half issues. And even though he wasn't particularly sharp on Saturday — Cook was 20-for-32 for 192 yards, two touchdowns and an interception — he was motivated from start to finish.
MSU QB Connor Cook talks about the Spartans' offense in win over Oregon. Matt Charboneau / The Detroit News
"The loss last year (stunk)," Cook said. "Being able to have the half that we had last year, we went on an 18-0 run I think, and just laying an egg in the second half and that stuck with me during the whole year. It stuck with me during the season. It stuck with me watching them playing in the National Championship, and it was with me all through spring ball, through camp. It's one of the main reasons why we wanted to come back is to play Oregon again and beat them."
Cook got plenty of help as senior receiver Aaron Burbridge had eight catches for 101 yards and a touchdown while redshirt freshman Madre London ran for 103 yards on 18 carries. Freshman LJ Scott added 76 yards on 11 carries and scored the first two touchdowns of his career. Tight end Josiah Price also had a touchdown catch.
And the Spartans needed every bit of it as fifth-year senior quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. threw for 309 yards and a touchdown while Bralon Addison caught seven passes for 138 yards. Royce Freeman finished with 92 yards on 24 carries.
"There are so many momentum swings and the crowd is in it and when there is a punch you have to counterpunch," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. "If you can't respond quickly then swings can happen. … They are outstanding every level of this program and this team is very good."
The swings were back and forth the entire game and started from the outset.
Just five minutes into the game, each team had scored. Oregon opened with a 13-play drive that went 75 yards and ended with a 2-yard Freeman run and Michigan State answered in just three plays when Cook hit Price with a 12-yard TD pass.
Burbridge scored the only touchdown of the third quarter after a Montae Nicholson interception and following a fourth-and-1 conversion in Oregon territory.
“I would say that was an obvious call because up front I felt like we were getting a big push every play,” Allen said. “Our O-line is relentless and we weren't going to not get it.”
The Spartans got another one in the third quarter, this time after Oregon had tied the game on an 81-yard punt return for a score by Addison. Facing a fourth-and-6 from the Oregon 34, Cook hit Burbridge for a 28-yard gain. On the next play, Scott scored from 6 yards out.
"It was just a hitch," Cook said. It was actually the same play we ran in the Cotton Bowl believe it or not. Different formation, same play."
In the Cotton Bowl it was a fourth-down completion to Tony Lippett that kept the winning drive alive. On Saturday, it was one of many big plays
Michigan State extended its lead to 24-14 late in third quarter on a 36-yard field goal from Michael Geiger, but the Ducks rallied and had a fourth-down conversion of their own, a 25-yard pass from Adams to Byron Marshall on fourth-and-7 that put the ball at the MSU 5. Two plays later, Adams scored on a 2-yard run to cut the Michigan State lead to 24-21 with 12:20 left in the fourth quarter.
But the Spartans showed they can strike quickly once again when it took them just three plays to extend the lead to 31-21 with 10:51 to play. After Scott returned the kick to the 35, R.J. Shelton ran for 18 yards and Scott picked up 9. On the next play, Scott went off right tackle and broke free for a 38-yard touchdown run, his second of the game.
MSU coach Mark Dantonio talks about MSU's win over Oregon. Matt Charboneau / The Detroit News
"LJ Scott, two touchdowns tonight, and that was exciting for him as a true freshman," Dantonio said.
Oregon answered with a nine-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Adams to Marshall with 3:25 to play, cutting the MSU lead to 31-28. Michigan State then went three-and-out, only to set up its defense for the big play of the game.
With Oregon facing a third-and-6 from the Michigan State 33, defensive tackle Lawrence Thomas and linebacker Chris Frey broke through to drag Adams down for an 11-yard sack. The fourth-down play was an incomplete pass.
"Big play," Dantonio said. "We played fast. And if you're playing fast out there, you sort of let the chips go where they fall. Good things happen."
And now Michigan State moves on to face Air Force next week having avenged a bitter defeat while earning one of its biggest regular-season wins under Dantonio.
"I think they all count one, I really do," Dantonio said. "But for 24 hours, it's a little bit bigger."