After falling behind 3-0 after the first quarter, Michigan State went on a big run in the second and third quarters to win the 2017 Holiday Bowl over Washington State late Thursday night, 42-17.
Without Luke Falk, many expected the Spartans to win, but no one saw a major blowout. Beating the No. 18 Washington State Cougars (9-4) happened to be a milestone for the Spartans as well as head coach Mark Dantonio. It was the team’s 10th win of the year and the head coach’s 100th with the Spartans.
It took a while for the Spartans to get going, most notably sophomore quarterback Brian Lewerke who started 0-for-4, but finished the first half completing 10 of his last 11 passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns. He finished the game 13-of-21 for 213 yards and three scores while rushing for another 73.
LJ Scott also had a big game for Michigan State (10-3), rushing for 110 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.
The Spartans held a potent Washington State offense to just 17 points and 287 total yards.
Michigan State will bring back most of its starters for the 2018 season.
Spartans officially win Holiday Bowl
The Cougars stopped the clock a couple of times to get a shot at the end zone, but were unable to put anything together, resulting in a Michigan State win.
Spartans melt clock with quick drive
The Spartans ran the ball three times and didn't gain any yardage, but looked to just melt the clock with a big lead. Michigan State would punt with just over a minute left.
Washington State throws interception
The special teams, which had been great all game, swallowed up Renard Bell at the 16-yard-line. Tyler Hilinski completed a short pass to Kyle Sweet and then another to James Williams for seven yards. Devontavean Martin caught a first-down pass and then again for six yards on first. Hilinski then rushed for a first down. He then threw it deep to Sweet and it was tipped and intercepted by Khari Willis.
LJ Scott scores big touchdown late
The Cougars attempted an onside kick and Joe Bachie recovered it. Brian Lewerke also re-entered the game and handed it off tor LJ Scott for two yards on first down. Scott then rushed for six more yards to set up a third-and-2. The junior running back rushed for 10 yards and a first down. Once again, Scott rushed for 28 yards and a touchdown on the next play. The Spartans took a 42-17 lead.
Cougars inch closer
Tyler Hilinski started at his own 33 and completed a 17-yard pass to Dezmon Patmon. James Williams then took a short pass 17 yards and Josiah Scott was called for targeting and disqualified from the game. Demetrius Cooper hit Hilinski on first-and-10, forcing an incompletion. He then overthrew his receiver on second-and-10. He then completed a 9-yard pass to Renard Bell to set up 4th-and-1. The Cougars were able to convert. A few plays later, Washington State was able to reach the end zone on a 15-yard reception by Devontavean Martin. The Spartans led 35-17.
Terry enters game, throws interception
Thanks to a taunting penalty after the Washington State touchdown, the Cougars were pushed back 15 yards on the kickoff. Connor Heyward returned the ball to the Spartans' 42. Madre London recorded his first carry and picked up seven yards on first down. He then rushed again for just a yard. On third-and-2, London picked up 10 yards and a first down to end the third quarter.
Hercules Mata'afa recorded his first sack of the game, dropping Brian Lewerke for a 5-yard loss. He would then leave the game in favor of Damion Terry. The senior dual-threat picked up 12 yards on a scramble and then another five to pick up a first down. London was then dropped for a 1-yard loss. Terry was then dropped for a loss of two yards on a designed run to the short side of the field. He then threw a horrific interception.
Washington State finally reaches end zone
Antjuan Simmons stops James Williams at the 20-yard-line on the ensuing kickoff. Williams then rushed for six yards on first down. Tyler Hilinski then found Jamire Calvin for 20 yards and a first down. Simmons then recorded another big hit on Williams on a 3-yard reception and both players went down with injuries but each was able to walk off the field. Kyle Sweet caught a pass for six yards to set up third-and-1 and Josiah Scott was called for pass interference.
On first-and-10 at the Michigan State 31, Williams took a shovel pass for six yards. Hilinski then hit Williams again for 11 yards to the Michigan State 14. Davontavean Martin caught the Cougars' first touchdown over Scott to make it 35-10.
Michigan State scores after Washington State fumble
Washington State was swallowed up at its own 15-yard-line on the ensuing kickoff. Tyler Hilinski was chased from the pocket and gained three yards on the first play and then he hit Kyle Sweet for 10 yards and a first down. On a fumbled handoff, Hilinski botched the attempt and Chris Frey picked it up. Michigan State would get the ball back at the Washington State 27.
Brian Lewerke got back to the line of scrimmage on a designed run and then he rushed for six yards on a second-down scramble. To no one’s surprise, he rushed again for six yards on an option play. A trick play near resulted in a Cody White throw, but he ran with the ball to get inside the 10. Lewerke then rushed again for a first down inside the five and was shaken up on the play.
Damion Terry came in for Lewerke and handed it off to Gerald Holmes who was taken down at the 1-yard-line after a great second effort. A false start by Tyler Higby pushed Michigan State back to the 6-yard-line. Terry reached the end zone on a quarterback keeper to extend the lead to 35-3, thanks to a Matt Coghlin extra point.
Fourth straight touchdown extends MSU's lead
Connor Heyward brought the opening kickoff in the second half out to the 33. A play-action rollout by Brian Lewerke resulted in a 12-yard completion to Matt Sokol. LJ Scott rushed for three yards and Lewerke missed Cody White on a pass down the sideline. On third-and-7, Lewerke hit a red-hot Felton Davis III who stretched out to make a highlight catch for 31 yards. Hercules Mata'afa, who returned for the second half, chased down Lewerke and forced a throw-away on first down before Scott picked up nine yards on the next play. On third-and-1, Scott picked up a first down.
The Spartans took their first timeout on second-and-10 at the Washington State 13-yard-line. A designed run for Lewerke gained just three yards and the Spartans faced a third-and-7. A tipped pass found its way into the waiting hands of Cody White in the end zone to take a 28-3 lead.
Spartans go into half with big lead
The Cougars picked up a first down to end the half and the Spartans would open the final 30 minutes by getting the ball back with a 21-3 lead.
Michigan State pours it on before half
On the first play of the drive at their own 31, Brian Lewerke hit Felton Davis III for 27 yards. Darrell Stewart Jr. took a handoff and picked up three yards and then an offsides by Washington State set up second-and-2 for the Spartans. LJ Scott took a second-down handoff and fought off multiple defenders to attain a first down. Stewart Jr. caught a short pass and turned it up field for 12 yards and another first.
A fake handoff to Scott and pump fake to Stewart Jr. set up an open screen to the running back from Lewerke and he picked up 16 yards down to the Washington State 3-yard-line. Scott then rushed up the middle for three yards and a touchdown with 29 seconds left. The Spartans took a 21-3 lead on a Matt Coghlin extra point.
Spartans force quick Washington State drive
Washington State started the drive at its own 25. Two short passes and then an incompletion set up a fourth-and-3 and a punt.
Lewerke throws second touchdown pass
Michigan State started the next drive at its own 37. Brian Lewerke tucked for seven yards on first down and Gerald Holmes was met in the backfield as the handoff takes place, losing three yards. Lewerke then rushed for 11 yards and a first down on an option play. He then hit Felton Davis III for a 49-yard touchdown pass to take a 14-3 lead.
Spartans force another three-and-out
A touchback set Washington State's drive up at its own 25. Tyler Hilinski threw an incompletion on his first attempt and Jamal Morrow then caught a 3-yard pass to set up third-and-long. Hilinski then went long to Dezmon Patman, but Justin Layne's aggressive coverage led to an incompletion. Washington State would then punt.
Brian Lewerke finds Cody White for TD
Starting at their own 19, the Spartans went with an LJ Scott run on the first play and he picked up six yards. Brian Lewerke then completed his first pass of the game to Hunter Rison for two yards. A quarterback sneak on third-and-2 resulted in a first down. A Kevin Jarvis false start ended the first quarter.
Lewerke then completed his second pass of the game to a wide open Scott along the sideline and he gained 10 yards, but there was no defender there and it should have been more. Lewerke then rushed for seven yards on an option play to get the first down. Scott rushed for eight yards in two plays and Lewerke was short on third-and-2, but picked it up on a quarterback sneak on a fourth-down conversion. Lewerke and Felton Davis III then finally got on the same page, picking up 14 yards on a first-and-15 after a false start.
Afte a short Scott run, Cody White caught a pass on the sideline with one foot down for 16 yards. Lewerke escaped pressure on a later second-and-9 and a tipped pass nearly resulted in an interception in the end zone. On third-and-9, Lewerke threw a strike to White in the back of the end zone for the game's first touchdown. Matt Coghlin's extra point put the Spartans up 7-3.
Spartans respond to shut down Cougars
The Cougars began the drive at their own 38. An incompletion by Tyler Hilinski on first down and a 5-yard loss on second down forced a third-and-long, but they didn't pick up enough yardage, punting on fourth-and-9.
Felton Davis III drops fourth-down conversion
Michigan State started at its own 25 after a touchback on the ensuing kickoff. Brian Lewerke evaded pressure and sprinted in the open field for 19 yards and a first down. LJ Scott then rushed for two yards, but starting guard David Beedle was injured on the play. Two straight incompletions looked to set up a fourth down and punt, but a pass interference call on an attempt to Cody White gave Michigan State a first down in Washington State territory.
The Spartans attempted a reverse to Trishton Jackson to the short side of the field and lost six yards. Lewerke then scrambled for 12 yards and third down looked more manageable. He then threw an incompletion, intended for Felton Davis III, on third down. The Spartans elected to go for it on fourth-and-4 and Davis III dropped a sure first down reception.
Washington State takes early 3-0 lead
Washington State started inside its own 10-yard-line. A short run by Jamal Morrow and an intermediate completion from Tyler Hilinski to Kyle Sweet set up a third down. Hilinski then hooked up with Morrow out of the backfield for 13 yards and a toe-tapping catch on the sideline. James Williams and Hilinski then ran the ball over the next two plays for about 10 yards and another first down. The Cougars continued to move the ball into Michigan State territory thanks to another dump-down pass to Williams. A couple of incompletions by Hilinski forced a fourth-and-4.
The Cougars lined up to go for it, but then called a timeout to challenge a third-down incompletion call. They reviewed it and called it a catch by Sweet for eight yards and a first down. A near-sack forced an incompletion on first down and Williams caught a pass out of the backfield to get back to the line of scrimmage, setting up third-and-10. Brandon Arconado then caught a pass for seven yards to set up a 45-yard field goal. Erik Powell drilled it to put Washington State up 3-0.
LJ Scott starts strong, drive fizzles
On the Spartans' first play, LJ Scott broke off an 18-yard run. The next two plays went for just four yards on the ground thanks to the legs of Scott, setting up a third-and-6. An errant throw from Brian Lewerke forced a fourth down and a Jake Hartbarger punt which was muffed, but recovered by Jamal Morrow.
Washington State starts Falk-less
After Luke Falk was ruled out as a game-time decision, Washington State received to start the game and Tyler Hilinski came out to start under center. The Cougars were tackled short of the 20 on the opening kickoff and were only able to muster nine yards on their first drive, forcing a punt. Michigan State would start at its own 37.
Michigan State is looking to put an exclamation point on its turnaround season.
At 9-3, the Spartans already have reversed 2016's 3-9 debacle, but now they're going for win No. 10 when they take on Washington State on Thursday night in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. Kickoff is at 9 p.m.
A 10th win would secure Michigan State's sixth season of double-digit victories in the past eight seasons, and provide plenty of momentum for a young team heading into the 2018 season.
But, it won't be easy.
In Washington State (9-3), MSU faces a team with prolific "Air Raid" passing attack (now missing two of its top receivers in Tavares Martin Jr., and Isaiah Johnson-Mack) and a sneaky-strong defense that's 14th in the country.
Follow along here for live updates from the game.
Michigan State vs. Washington State
Kickoff: 9 p.m. Thursday, SDCCU Stadium, San Diego
Records: Michigan State 9-3, Washington State 9-3
Line: Michigan State by 1