Recap: Oregon tops MSU in defensive battle

By Connor Muldowney
The Detroit News
Dillon Mitchell of the Oregon Ducks has the ball bounce off his hands for an incomplete pass against the Michigan State Spartans during the first half.

Final drive comes to screeching halt

A bobbled punt by Jalen Nailor landed in the hands of Shakur Brown, luckily, as the Spartans set up one final drive. After losing two yards on the first two plays. Michigan State faced third-and-12 and Brian Lewerke missed Nailor badly. Cody White dropped a fourth down pass which would have been huge for the Spartans, but ended the game. Final: Oregon 7, Michigan State 6.

MSU forces crucial three-and-out

Oregon had a chance to ice the game with the ball and time winding down under two minutes. Two run plays and two MSU timeouts ensued, setting up third-and-10 for the Ducks with 1:27 to go. Travis Dye was unable to pick up the first as the defense forced a three-and-out.

MSU has special teams blunder

After the fake punt mishap, Michigan State took over and a couple of hard runs by LJ Scott recorded two big first downs for the Spartans. Two plays later on an option, Brian Lewerke kept the ball and picked up another first. Michigan State was setting up for another long field goal by Matt Coghlin after failing to move any further into Oregon territory. A low snap ended those hopes.

Oregon fake punt backfires

The Ducks continued to move the ball with relative ease as the Spartan defense showed plenty of fatigue. Josiah Scott nearly picked off a Justin Herbert pass in the end zone which would have been a game-changer, and on third-and-8, the Spartans stuffed a designed run by the quarterback. A fake punt was blown up by MSU and the Spartans took over as their own 34.

Matt Coghlin misses 50-yarder

The Spartans needed a quick answer after an Oregon touchdown and after a Darrell Stewart Jr. return past the 30, Brian Lewerke hit Jalen Nailor for 26 yards and a big first down into Duck territory.

A blown up play lost a few yards on first down and then Lewerke rushed for seven yards on second before throwing an incompletion on third. Matt Coghlin then attempted a 50-yard field goal, but it never had a chance.

Ducks take late lead

Justin Herbert hit Jaylon Redd for 15 yards to start their drive and then two plays later, he hit the receiver yet again for 18 yards and then Dillon Mitchell for another nine. Mitchell then caught a back-shoulder throw over Josiah Scott to give the Ducks their first score, and lead, of the game.

Third quarter begins with no offense

The Spartans received a punt to start the third quarter and began at their own 45. A deep shot by Brian Lewerke was throw short of Cody White. Two plays later, Lewerke was caught from behind on a scramble try and MSU was forced to punt yet again.

Another three-and-out forced by MSU

A 6-0 lead didn't seem like much against Oregon's offense, but the defense had been dominant all afternoon. After an illegal block, the Ducks started at their own 6-yard line.

CJ Verdell rushed for seven yards and Josiah Scott nearly picked off Justin Herbert and then the junior quarterback was sacked.

Spartans kick another FG

Michigan State started inside the Ducks' territory and LJ Scott fought for three plays to gain a first down. Matt Dotson caught a bullet from Brian Lewerke for another first down and was drilled but held on for a first down. The offense stalled out and set up another field goal try as Matt Coghlin nailed another 34-yarder to make it 6-0. 

Willekes heads to locker room

Deep in their own territory, the Ducks picked up a first down and finally surpassed the 100-yard mark as an offense on the day. An illegal block by the Ducks pushed them back to a second-and-13 and then a drop by Jacob Breeland on a bullet from Justin Herbert set up third-and-long. Herbert air-mailed his receiver after a heavy rush. Kenny Willekes was taken to the locker room.

Michigan State goes three-and-out

Michigan State couldn't move the ball after Oregon gave the Spartans good field position, but they may be winning that battle as they punted to the Ducks' 1-yard line.

Oregon forced to punt

Dominique Long got down quick in coverage and tackled the Oregon return man at the 11-yard line after he bobbled the ball. A short pass and run for no-gain led to a downfield pass from Justin Herbert, but Khari Willis and David Dowell were there in double-coverage to make a play.

Scoreless tie broken by MSU

The Spartans received to begin the second half and began at their own 20. LJ Scott picked up eight yards on two rushes, setting up a third-and-short. Brian Lewerke then rushed for 17 yards and a first down. He then hit Cody White on a second-and-8 for another first past midfield.

Scott followed that up with a 14-yard run on second down, his longest of the day, to get the Spartans to the 27. Lewerke hit White for another first as the offense began to heat up. A couple of incompletions and a short-side jet-sweep led to a field goal by Matt Coghlin to make it 3-0.

MSU blanked yet again

Brian Lewerke made one of those throws that gave fans flashbacks on an out route to Cody White for 10 yards and a first down and then hit Darrell Stewart Jr. on the sideline for three more. Matt Dotson made a nice grab down the middle of the field in traffic, picking up another first down and then Stewart Jr. made a catch and shifty moves for another decent gain.

A pass for no gain and two incompletions forced another punt. 

Spartans get to Herbert for first time

The Spartan offense gave the Ducks the ball deep in their own territory. On first down, he was sacked by a wealth of Spartans, on second he had the ball tipped at the line and then the Ducks picked up about 15 yards, setting up a fourth-and-3 and another punt.

MSU drive stalls out

Another penalty began the drive for the Spartans but back-to-back throws to Cody White picked up a first down as Brian Lewerke looked to gain some confidence despite heavy pressure. On third-and-3, Lewerke found Matt Sokol right in the middle of the field after eluding the rush. The junior quarterback scrambled for 11 yards and a first down but LJ Scott went down with an injury.

Connor Heyward came in at running back and picked up a short gain on first down in Oregon territory. He then fumbled and got it back for a 5-yard gain. Two plays later, Michigan State went for it on fourth-and-1 following a timeout and ran a play action but Lewerke never had enough time and threw it short of his receiver

Antjuan Simmons ends drive with big hit

Oregon started with its best field position of the day at its own 37. Two plays accounted for just five yards and then Justin Herbert found CJ Verdell out of the backfield but he was popped by Antjuan Simmons short of a first down. Another punt by the Ducks.

Sloppy play continues

An ineligible receiver down field wiped out what would have been a huge pass interference penalty by Oregon. A short pass to Darrell Stewart Jr. set up a second-and-long and Cody White dropped a potential first down. Then Brian Lewerke was sacked to end another ugly drive.

Oregon drops easy TD

The Ducks lost a yard on a first-down run but then Justin Herbert threw for about 15 yards on a nice roll-out. Herbert then found tight end Jacob Breeland for 21 yards as he raced into MSU territory for the first time on the day. On third-and-10, the Ducks went deep and Dillon Mitchell was unable to hold on to a sure touchdown catch.

Good field position all for naught 

LJ Scott continued to get more touches as the Spartans started with good field position near their own 35. The senior running back took an option for a first down and added a few more carries before Brian Lewerke rushed for about 25 yards on a scramble. 

Oregon called a timeout with time running down in the first and on first down, a swing pass to Scott gained just two yards and Cody White ended the quarter with a 6-yard catch, starting the second quarter with a third-and-five from the Oregon 20. On the first play of the second quarter, Lewerke bobbled the snap and then tried to throw the ball away but it ended up in Oregon's hands.

Oregon, too, struggles to move the ball

Starting at its own 22-yard line, Oregon struggled to move the ball after a short run by Travis Dye and scramble by Justin Herbert. A third-down drop by the Ducks, well defended by Andrew Dowell, forced yet another punt.

MSU offense goes nowhere

Michigan State's offense couldn't get anything going on three pass plays with two incompletions by Brian Lewerke and a flip-pass to Darrell Stewart Jr. for just two yards.

Josiah Scott steps up

Justin Herbert and the Ducks began in their own territory again after a Spartan punt and they figured out the short passing game works on this MSU defense. His first two passes combined for a first down and Travis Dye picked up six yards on first down. Herbert's deep throw to Dillon Mitchell fell incomplete and Josiah Scott sniffed out a third-down swing pass, handing the Ducks an eight-yard loss.

LJ Scott shows flashes

After a false start prior to the first play, the Spartans rushed for a short gain on first down and then LJ Scott had arguably his best run of the season, picking up 12 yards with a nifty spin move. Brian Lewerke picked up the Spartans' first first down of the game with a quarterback sneak on third-and-1. A few plays later, Connor Heyward went the wrong way to lose a yard on third-and-1.

Ducks get first down, nothing more

Oregon started at its own 20-yard line and rushed for a short game, tossed a 2-yard passed and then recorded the game's first first down on a scramble and pass from Justin Herbert. A few plays later, the Ducks faced another third down and it was nearly picked off by Khari Willis to force a punt.

Michigan State goes three-and-out

LJ Scott gained about five yards on his first rush of the game but Brian Lewerke was pressured and sacked for a loss of nine on second down. We never got to see Lewerke's arm as he tucked and ran on third-and-long, gaining just six yards. 

Oregon blanked on opening drive

After a nice kickoff return, Oregon started at its own 33-yard line. Justin Herbert's first two passes were incomplete thanks to solid defense by the Spartans and on third-and-10, the quarterback air-mailed his receiver as the Ducks didn't gain a single yard.

Michigan State hopes to ring in the New Year with a victory over Oregon in the Redbox Bowl on Monday. Kickoff is 3 p.m. and Connor Muldowney of The Detroit News will provide live updates throughout the game.


Michigan State vs. Oregon

Kickoff: 3 Monday, Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.

Records: Michigan State 7-5; Oregon 8-4

TV/radio: Fox/760

Line: Oregon by 2.5


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