Recap: Interception seals 38-31 MSU victory

By Nolan Bianchi
The Detroit News
Michigan State's Connor Heyward moves the ball upfield in the second half.

Game Leaders


MSU - Brian Lewerke: 23/33, 287 yards, 2 TD, Int.

USU - Jordan Love: 29/44, 319 yards, 2 Int.


MSU - LJ Scott: 23 atts., 84 yards (3.7 ypc)

MSU - Connor Heyward: 5 atts., 42 yards (8.4 ypc), 2 TD

USU - Darwin Thompson: 10 atts., 28 yards (2.8 ypc), 2 TD


MSU - Cody White: 5 recs., 70 yards, TD

MSU - Felton Davis III: 3 recs., 69 yards, TD

USU - Dax Raymond: 7 recs., 76 yards

Interception seals 38-31 MSU victory

Utah State has two minutes to go 75 yards and tie the game.

The drive's not off to a great start. The Aggies are flagged for delay-of-game, much to the dismay Utah State coach Matt Wells, who was seen screaming, "I asked you four times!" at the referee on the BTN broadcast.

Jordan Love throws to Jordan Nathan for eight yards. On second down, Willekes sacks Love for the second time. It's third-and-7, and not a soul in Spartan Stadium is seated. 

Love throws to Greene for 21 yards and the dream is very much alive as Ron'quavion Tarver then catches a nine-yard pass to enter Spartan territory.

Or not. Love's next ball is batted up in the air at the line and picked off by linebacker Joe Bachie.

The Spartans take over with 1:15 remaining and only one timeout in Wells' pocket. This one is over.

38-31 Michigan State (FINAL)

Spartans come roaring back

Brian Lewerke and the Spartans return to the field with 5:05 remaining in the fourth quarter starting from their own 25. 

Two quick gains from Darrell Stewart Jr. and LJ Scott make it third-and-2. Lewerke completes a pass to Cody White for 12 yards and a first down.

Lewerke spins away from coverage and chucks one up to a Felton Davis III, who tripped over the Utah State defender but still managed to make pull down the 31-yard reception. It's first-and-10 from the Utah State 21-yard-line.

It's safe to say that Mark Dantonio is very much over his team's untimely penalties. This time his disgusted gaze is aimed at the reversal of a 13-yard touchdown run from Scott called back for offensive holding.

What a roller coaster. Conner Heyward picks up a 13-yard run of his own on second-and-5 to give the Spartans the lead once again. Felton Davis pulls down the two-point conversion.

38-31 Michigan State (2:00 4th)

Utah State takes fourth quarter lead

Starting from its own 25-yard-line, an eight-yard pass to Jalen Greene and one-yard rush from Darwin Thompson makes it third-and-1 for Utah State.

Defensive end Jacub Panasiuk was hurt on the play, forcing him out of the game for now.

Love keeps it on third down and rushes for a gain of four to move the sticks. He finds DJ Nelson with a screen pass on the next play, and Nelson picks up 11.

The Aggies are past midfield and down to the 40-yard-line thanks to a five-yard run from Thompson and five-yard catch by Dax Raymond. Another first down.

After a three-yard rush, the Aggies nearly get inside the 5-yard-line, but Khari Willis disrupts the deep pass intended for Carson Terrell. Raymond catches a seven-yard pass on the next play for a first down.

The Aggies defense continues to be aggressive, and Michigan State isn't doing itself any favors on defense. They have twelve men on the field on first down, making it first-and-5. The Spartans draw some yellow laundry again two plays later, this time for pass interference.

Love finds Greene on first-and-10 from the 16, and Darwin Thompson puts the Aggies on the 1-yard-line.

Timeout, Utah State.

30-24 Michigan State (5:07 4th)

Love hands the ball off to Thompson from the shotgun formation and the Utah State running back dances into the endzone. The extra point gives the Aggies the lead.

31-30 Utah State (5:05 4th)

Long drive results in just three points 

The reliable LJ Scott picks up five yards on the first play of a Spartan drive that began at the Michigan State 31-yard-line thanks to a 26-yard return from Darrell Stewart Jr.

On second down, Felton Davis III goes down on his shoulder awkwardly during an incomplete pass but walks off under his own power. Utah State is flagged for delay of game, renewing the Spartans' set of downs and giving them five free yards for its trouble.

Stewart is targeted deep down the left sideline, which lands out-of-bounds. Utah State called for pass interference despite the inaccurate throw from Lewerke.

The 15-yard penalty makes it first-and-10 at the Utah State 31. Scott picks up nine yards on the last play of the third quarter.

Michigan State rushed for 80 yards as a team in the game's third frame.

27-24 Michigan State (End 3rd)

Scott picks up three yards on the ground in the opening play of the quarter, giving Michigan State a first down at the 28-yard-line.

The rushing attack continues on the next play, this time with Stewart. He picks up 15 and Michigan State is in the red-zone. They'll need 13 yards for another score.

A five-yard pass to Sowards and four-yard run by Scott makes it 3rd-and-1 at the Utah State 4-yard-line. Lewerke pushes behind his line for the first down. 

Scott picks up minimum yardage on the next two plays, and on third-and-goal, Lewerke hits Cody White in the endzone. The cheers in Spartan Stadium quickly shifted to boos when a yellow flag flew for illegal formation. Lewerke throws an incomplete pass on third down, and the Spartans will have to settle for a field goal attempt. 

Coghlin's kick is good from 24 yards.

30-24 Michigan State (10:23 4th)

We got ourselves a ballgame, folks

Good news: Lewerke returns to the field on the Spartans next possession.

Bad news: His first throw is picked off by Gaje Ferguson and returned 40 yards for a touchdown.

It's a three-point game.

27-24 Michigan State (1:41 3rd)

Aggies threaten, but settle for field goal

The BTN broadcast returns from commercial with a shot of Lewerke looking rather annoyed and a foot up on the training table.

Jordan Love immediately returns to first-half form, hitting Aaren Vaughns for a gain of 13 to reach the Michigan State 47-yard-line.

He hands the ball to Darwin Thompson for a gain of two and then finds his running back through the air for a gain of ten. The Spartans are flagged for holding on the next play, and its first-and-10 from the 25-yard-line. The Aggies are officially threatening.

Threat neutralized. Kenny Willekes jumps on Love's back miles behind the line of scrimmage, and the Aggie quarterback fumbles - but then recovers - the ball for a loss of 15.

Utah State picks up 18 yards on the next two plays, making it fourth-and-7.

Dominik Eberle puts it through the uprights.

27-17 Michigan State (1:55 3rd)

False start on third down stalls MSU's offensive momentum

LJ Scott picks up another three-yard gain to start the drive. Laress Nelson catches a pass for five yards on second down to make it a very manageable third-and-2. 

Well, it was manageable before a false start penalty. On third-and-7, Lewerke tries to escape a collapsing pocket through the middle of the field. He only gains a yard, and punter Jake Hartbarger will be out to give Utah State the ball back. 

Of note: Lewerke left the field limping.

27-14 Michigan State (5:17 3rd)

Spartans defense standing tall early in second half

Khari Willis loves having his name called on the BTN broadcast. He makes a diving effort to break up a pass from Jordan Love on first down that was nearly intercepted. The Aggies gain eight and six yards through the air on the two plays that follow and pick up a first down, anyway.

Love completes a pass to Dax Raymond on first down from its own 42-yard-line, but that's all Utah State will muster on this drive as Love's next two passes both fall to the ground and it will be forced to punt.

Taylor Hintze's punt goes out-of-bounds at the Michigan State 26-yard-line.

27-14 Michigan State (7:22 3rd)

Michigan State adds to its lead on opening drive of second half

The second-half kickoff takes a bounce at the Michigan State 1-yard-line and is, for some reason, picked out of midair by Connor Heyward, who returns it for 18 yards. The Spartans will start the opening drive of the second half from their own 19-yard-line.

LJ Scott picks up three yards on first down. Brian Lewerke has defenders in his face on second down and throws an incomplete pass. The Spartan quarterback shows off his legs on third-and-7, reaching the MSU 49-yard-line and picking up a first down on a 27-yard gain.

Heyward picks up six yards on a first-down run to reach Aggie territory and then 5 more to pick up a new set of downs at the Utah State 40.

After the brief rushing attack, Michigan State goes back to the air. On second-and-10, a pass from Lewerke is batted down at the line but caught by offensive lineman Luke Campbell for a gain of five, and Jalen Nailor catches a 14-yard pass on third down to make it first-and-10 at the Utah State 21-yard-line.

Campbell is flagged for holding, but Michigan State more than makes up for the 10-yard penalty on first-and-20 by completing a 14-yard pass to Darrell Stewart Jr. Heyward finishes off the scoring run by dazzling the Spartan faithful with a 18-yard rush that results in a touchdown.

27-14 Michigan State (9:06 3rd)

First half leaders


MSU - Brian Lewerke: 13/19, 190 yards, 2 TD

USU - Jordan Love: 14/21, 181 yards, 0 TD


MSU - LJ Scott: 12 atts., 36 yards (3.0 ypc)

USU - Darwin Thompson: 5 atts., 15 yards (3.0 ypc)


MSU - Cody White: 4 recs., 58 yards, TD

USU - Jordan Nathan: 3 recs., 56 yards

Spartans nab last score of the half, go up 20-14

MSU takes over from its own 25-yard-line. 

Lewerke throws a nine-yard pass to Darrell Stewart Jr. and then takes matters into his own hands on 3rd-and-1 by diving up the middle for three yards a first down.

LJ Scott continues to be Michigan State's most potent offensive weapon. He rushes the ball on first, second and third down for a total gain of 13 yards, which will give the Spartans a fresh set of downs at the 50.

Lewerke keeps it on first down, getting to the outside for a gain of seven. He bobbles the snap and quickly makes a textbook chest pass to Connor Heyward, who's able to turn the poor snap into a one-yard gain. On third down, the Cody White catches a ten-yard pass to reach the 32-yard-line.

After an incomplete pass to Brandon Sowards, Michigan state continues its air attack over the middle. A pass to Stewart is taken for a 16-yard gain and a first down at the Utah State 16.

Lewerke picks up six yards with his feet on first down. Davis fights off a defender in the endzone and catches a fade route to put the Spartans back on top.

20-14 Michigan State (0:28 2nd)

Jordan Love takes a knee to run out the clock on the first half. Michigan State will receive the kickoff to start the second.

20-14 Michigan State (End 2nd)

Aggies strike back quickly with scoring drive

Savon Scarver returns the kickoff 24 yards to the Utah State 28-yard-line.

DJ Nelson appears to have picked up a first down on a 17-yard reception, but Utah State is flagged for illegal formation.

Jordan Love doesn't care, evidently, because he finds Dax Raymond on the next play for 18 yards, and again two plays later for a gain of 25. Utah State showing no fear as it continues its fast-paced offense.

Darwin Thompson rushes for 5 yards and Ron'quavion Tarver catches a pass for 10 and first and second down. Utah State has a fresh set of downs at the 18.

A seven-yard run from Thompson and a nine-yard run from Love finishes the Aggies' drive with a touchdown.

14-13 Utah State (6:55 2nd)

Spartans take lead after Willis interception

Love is hit as he throws on first down and sends a lame duck right into the waiting arms of Khari Willis. He returns it 20 yards and the Spartans will take over at the Utah State 42.

On first down, LJ Scott catches a screen pass channels the patience of Michigan State legend Le'Veon Bell as he crawls to the line while he waits for a hole to open near the right sideline. His patience is rewarded with a gain of 32 yards. It's first-and-10 from the Utah State 10.

LJ Scott picks up two yards on the ground. A Lewerke pass falls incomplete on second down, but his attempt to Cody White is good as gold. The Spartans take the lead.

13-7 Michigan State (10:49 2nd)

Spartan offense can't catch a break 

On first down from its own 25-yard-line, Michigan State's pocket collapses again as he's forced to get rid of the ball in a hurry. It falls incomplete 


Sowards catches a seven-yard pass on second down. On third-and-3, Lewerke throws behind Felton Davis III as he crosses the middle. Referees initially ruled the pass a catch, but after video review, call it incomplete. Davis is beside himself at the ruling.

Nonetheless, the Spartans will punt.

7-6 Utah State (12:15 2nd)

Spartans force quick punt

Love finds Eltoro Allen for a gain of 11 and the Aggies are in Spartan territory at the 40.

Three straight incomplete passes force a Utah State punt that goes for a touchback.

7-6 Aggies (13:03 2nd)

Pocket can't keep Lewerke upright, strip-sack gives Utah State the ball back

On the last play of the quarter, LJ Scott catches a screen pass and dances up the sideline for a 20-yard gain. First down at the MSU 40.

LJ Scott gets the ball on first down and picks up four yards. Brandon Sowards is hit as he looks to catch a slant from Lewerke. Third-and-6.

Darrell Stewart catches a pass near the left sideline and gets shifty, forcing a missed tackle and gaining a first down.

On the ensuing first down, the pocket collapses on Lewerke again. He's stripped and the ball is recovered by Utah State. The Aggies will take over at its own 49-yard-line.

7-6 Utah State (13:38 2nd)

Willis' athletic play forces Utah State punt

The Aggies take a knee on the kickoff. Its third straight drive will start from the 25-yard-line.

Quick passes to Carson Terrell and DJ Nelson give the Aggies a first down at its own 38-yard-line. The Aggies throw on the two plays that precede it and pick up another fresh set of downs.

On first down at midfield, Eltoro Allen plows ahead for again of two. Allen runs for three on second down. Offsetting unsportsmanlike penalties make it third-and-5.

Khari Willis makes an athletic play on a deep ball from Love to end the Aggies Drive.

Utah State will punt.

7-6 Utah State (0:25 1st)

Another third-down sack stalls the MSU offense in Aggie territory once again

Taking over at the Utah State 41-yard-line, Lewerke feeds LJ Scott twice for again of seven. On third down, Felton Davis III makes a big catch down the sideline before being taken down at the Utah State six-yard-line.

Lewerke looks for Felton again in the endzone, but his pass falls incomplete. Utah State is called for pass interference, a four-yard penalty that will make it first down at the two-yard-line.

LJ Scott is stuffed at the goal line. The referees review the play, but make no changes on its ruling. Third down at the two-inch-line.

Luke Campbell is called for a false start. It's now third-and-goal from the five.

For the second time in consecutive drives, Lewerke is sacked on third down to end the series.

Coghlin's try from 32 is good.

7-6 Utah State (2:54 1st)

Michigan State makes a big stop on fourth down

Jordan Love and the Utah State offense look to add to its lead and will once again start the drive at the 25-yard-line after a touchback.

Love finds Aaren Vaughns on second down for a 10-yard gain. First down Aggies.

After an incomplete pass thrown by Love, Michigan State's defense sniffs out a double reverse and forces a loss of five. It's third-and-15 from the Aggie 30-yard-line.

Love finds Vaughns again for a gain of 14. They rush to the line on fourth down and hand it to Gerold Bright, who's stuffed for a loss of three. Turnover on downs.

Spartans cut into early deficit with field goal

Brian Lewerke leads Michigan State out for its first drive of the season, starting at his own 26-yard-line.

On second down, Lewerke launches one to the middle of the field and finds Cody White wide open for a 40-yard-gain. Michigan State has a first down at the Utah State 31.

LJ Scott gets the ball twice for a total gain of six yards. On third-and-4, the pocket collapses on Lewerke and he goes down for a loss of 6. Matt Coghlin will trot out for a 49-yard field goal. 

Coghlin's try is through the uprights. 

7-3 Utah State (9:30 1st)

Utah State makes slight work of Spartan defense, takes 7-0 lead

Utah State takes a knee in the endzone on the game's opening kickoff and will start its opening drive from the 25-yard-line.

Two short gains and a high-tempo offense for Utah State set up third-and-2. Jordan Love finds Jordan Nathan over the middle of the field for a 28-yard gain and a fresh set of downs.

On first down at the Michigan State 40-yard-line, Love finds Dax Raymond for another 12-yard-gain. Love throws an incomplete pass, but the Spartans are flagged for having 12 men on the field. 

Love finds Nathan open in the middle of the field once again, this time picking up 21 yards before being taken down at the Spartan 1-yard-line. 

Love keeps the ball and dives up the middle for a touchdown. 

7-0 Utah State (12:58 1st)


Michigan State kicks off its season Friday night at home with a 7 p.m. matchup against Utah State. Follow the action here with live updates throughout the game by Nolan Bianchi of The Detroit News.


Kickoff: 7 p.m. Friday, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing

TV/radio: Big Ten Network/760 AM

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