Ducks, Spartans: Michigan State holds off Oregon in big 31-28 home win

Updated: September 14, 2015
Ducks, Spartans: Michigan State holds off Oregon in big 31-28 home win

In the game of the week in college football, the fifth-ranked Michigan State Spartans defeated the seventh-ranked Oregon Ducks 31-28, avenging their blowout loss to these Ducks a year ago.

With 2:13 to play and in Michigan State territory, Oregon started driving before quarterback Vernon Adams missed an open receiver streaking down the field.

On the next play, Lawrence Thomas and Chris Frey teamed up for a sack and put Oregon in a fourth-and-17 – and held as Adams’ final pass fell short of its intended target.

A 31-28 win for the No. 5 team in the nation at home at Spartan Stadium, taking down the No. 7 team – and the team that had a season earlier put an early damper on its College Football Playoff hopes in Week 2.

This time, the hopes are alive and well, where they likely will stay until a Nov. 21 clash in Columbus, Ohio, with Ohio State.

The win came on the backs of big rushing performances from Madre London and L.J. Scott, as the Spartans outgained the Ducks 197 to 123 on the ground, thoroughly dominating the trenches through much of the game.

A pair of three-play drives were key for Michigan State – of the good variety – as the Spartans responded to each of the first two Oregon offensive touchdowns with quick strikes, something the Ducks are known for.

The Ducks started fast, as Vernon Adams completed a pair of key third downs. Running back Royce Freeman capped the 13-play, 75-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to put Oregon up 7-0 just 3:50 into the game.

But it took Michigan State no time at all to strike back, as Madre London took off on the first play for MSU, stiff-arming an Oregon defender on his way to a 62-yard gain to the Oregon 13-yard line.

Two plays later, Connor Cook hit Josiah Price for a 13-yard touchdown and MSU was right back in it with a drive that took just 1:08.

MSU’s defense came up big on the following drive, as Joel Heath forced a Freeman fumble, leaving Oregon in a third-and-19. Shilique Calhoun brought down Adams with a shoestring tackle as he rolled out of the pocket, forcing the Oregon punt.

After a Frey sack forced another Oregon punt on the next possession, Michigan State marched down to the Oregon 8-yard line. But on third down, Damion Terry checked in at quarterback, but was brought down for a loss on the keeper. Michael Geiger missed the 28-yard field goal.

Montae Nicholson got the ball right back for MSU, pulling down an interception that looked like a sure reception for wide receiver Charles Nelson at the MSU 40. He ran it back to the Oregon 30, giving the Spartans a second straight drive starting in opponent territory.

On third-and-10, Cook stepped up in the pocket and hit Macgarrett Kings underneath for a short gain. Kings ducked a tackle and gained a few extra yards, putting MSU in a fourth-and-1 to open the second quarter.

A Cook keeper gained two and two plays later, Aaron Burbridge took a quick slant from Cook and bowled through a pair of tackles and into the end zone to give MSU at 14-7 lead with 13:45 before halftime.

Oregon drove in chunks with Adams pick and popping to wide receivers for solid gains down to the MSU1. On third-and-goal, Freeman leaped for score, but was stopped by Riley Bullough for no gain – after Bullough stopped Adams at the 1 on the previous play after a 5-yard gain.

MSU stuffed the Ducks on the fourth-down attempt, as Freeman was met at the line by a convoy of Spartans after Malik McDowell got the initial big push.

Adams made a highlight-play once Oregon got the ball back as he rolled out of the pocket and threw the ball left handed as Darien Harris brought him down. The ball fell gracefully into the hands of Bralon Addison for a 25-yard gain into MSU territory.

But R.J. Williamson brought the drive to an abrupt end as he skied for an interception that he read the whole way, giving MSU the ball back at its 27.

A Cook interception put the ball back in Adams’ hands, as he airmailed a pass intended for Macgarrett Kings and Ugo Amadi ran it back to the Oregon 49.

The Spartan went into the half leading 14-7, but Oregon struck immediately as Michigan State’s drive stalled and Addison ran back the Jake Hartbarger punt for an 81-yard touchdown and a 14-14 tie.

Michigan State had its response on the arm of Cook, who drove the Spartans down the field, peppering passes to Kings and Burbridge. The key came when Cook hit Burbridge with a dart into coverage on a fourth-and-6 to put MSU at the Oregon 6-yard line. The reception put Burbridge past the 100-yard mark for the second straight week.

L.J. Scott capped the drive with his first career touchdown, putting MSU ahead 21-14 with 8:11 to go in the third quarter.

MSU forced a three-and-out on Oregon’s first offensive possession of the second half and the Spartans again put points on the scoreboard. This time, the score came courtesy of a 38-yard field goal for Michael Geiger.

The MSU offense post 23 plays for 134 yards in the third quarter, while Oregon had just 23 yards on seven plays.

Oregon’s got back in the end zone for the first time since its opening drive as Adams ran in from two yards out to pull Oregon within 24-21. The touchdown was set up by a perfect throw from Adams to Byron Marshall on the sideline on fourth-and-7.

But Michigan State had its answer set in just three plays. R.J. Shelton broke off an 18-yard run before Scott rumbled for seven and then a 38-yard touchdown as he bounced it outside and ran for the corner of the end zone and a 31-21 lead.

Facing a fourth-and-1 from its 48, Oregon went for it and barely converted, as tight end Evan Bayliss had just enough after Frey hit him after little gain. Three plays later, the Ducks again were facing a fourth-down attempt and went for it. Adams kept the ball up the middle, marked short and sending the Spartans into a celebration.

After review, the ruling stood and Michigan State took over, but went quickly three-and-out.

Adams hit Addison for a 30-yard gain before MSU committed its first penalty of the night, a downfield holding on cornerback Arjen Colquhoun gave Oregon a first down at the MSU 35.

Another pair of completions to Addison put Oregon in the red zone with a first-and-goal. The Ducks got moving the wrong way with a run for loss for Adams and a false start. But a McDowell personal foul set up the Ducks back at the MSU 5 before a holding penalty moved it back to the 15.

On second-and-goal, Marshall made a strong one-on-one reception over Colquhoun to pull Oregon within 31-28 with 3:25 to go.

MSU could not put the game away, giving the Ducks another chance. But the Spartans put together the necessary defensive stand late.