East Lansing – No. 18/21 ranked Michigan State wrapped up its non-conference schedule on Saturday afternoon when the Spartans welcomed in in-state foe Central Michigan to Spartan Stadium.
After a slow start where the Spartans were shut out in the first quarter, Michigan State took a 17-3 lead into halftime and coasted to a 31-20 win to improve to 3-1 on the season.
Trailing 3-0 in the second quarter, the Spartan offense would take over inside Central Michigan territory following a David Dowell interception and a return of 30 yards. Four plays later, the Spartans would take their first lead of the game as Lewerke found the end zone on a 4-yard run, making it 7-3 with 10:57 left in the second quarter.
After Michigan State’s next two drives ended with punts, the Spartans would extend their lead with just over two minutes left in the first half, using a 6-play, 46-yard drive capped off by Lewerke’s second rushing touchdown of the day, this time from 5-yards away giving the Michigan State a 14-3 lead.
The Spartans would tack on a Matt Coghlin 33-yard field goal just before halftime after a Justin Layne interception and short return down to the Central Michigan 34-yard line, making it 17-3 at the break.
The Spartan defense was in complete control for the much of the game on Saturday afternoon, limiting the Chippewas to just 245 total yards of offense. The top-ranked run defense limited Central Michigan rushing attack to just 63 yards on 22 carries on the day.
Michigan State picked up right where it left off to start the second half, going on an 8-play, 58-yard scoring drive, aided by a 37-yard catch by Felton Davis down inside the 5-yard line, setting up a short touchdown run by Connor Heyward to give the Spartans a comfortable 24-3 lead early in the second half.
Following another 3-and-out forced by the Spartan defense, the Michigan State offense found the end zone for the fourth time of the day pushing the lead to 31-3 midway through the third quarter, this time on a 1-yard run by true freshman running back La’Darius Jefferson. The touchdown was the first of Jefferson’s college career.
Jefferson rushed for a game-high 56 yards on 13 carries, while Heyward chipped in with 48 yards on 15 carries to help pace the Spartan run game. Lewerke finished Saturday’s game with 185 yards through the air on 16-of-25 passing and scored two rushing touchdowns, but did throw a costly interception in the end zone in the first quarter.
Central Michigan would score its first touchdown of the day in the opening stages of the fourth quarter when quarterback Tommy Lazzaro found receiver Julian Hicks for a 10-yard score, cutting the deficit down to 31-10.
The Chippewas would then receiver an onside kick, which led to their second field goal of the day.
Despite trailing by 28 points entering the fourth quarter, Central Michigan continued clawing its way back into the game, cutting the deficit to just 11 points midway through the fourth quarter with the help of some trickeration.
After picking up a first down inside the Michigan State 30-yard line on the previous play, Central Lazzaro threw a backward pass to Jonathan Ward, who found a wide-openTony Poljan in the end zone for a 29-yard score with 6:44 left, trimming the Spartan lead down to 31-20.
Despite a disappointing fourth quarter, Michigan State would manage to run out the remaining 6:44 on the clock, using a 13-play drive to put the game away.
The Spartans return to their conference schedule next weekend when they welcome in Northwestern to Spartan Stadium at noon on Saturday afternoon.
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