EditorsNote: update 2: adds “over Utah State” in second graf
Michigan State almost took itself out of the national picture in the season opener Friday night.
But a fourth-quarter touchdown drive that ended with a 13-yard run from Connor Heyward followed by a two-point conversion pass from Brian Lewerke to Felton Davis III gave Michigan State what it needed to record the 38-31 victory over Utah State in front of 73,114 at Spartan Stadium.
An interception off a batted pass by linebacker Joe Bachie put the game away as the Spartans won their home opener for the 20th straight season.
Lewerke threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns to make up for a lost fumble and an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Heyward ran for 42 yards and two scores while LJ Scott gained 84 yards on 23 carries. Davis and Cody White added touchdown catches for the Spartans.
Utah State piled up 344 yards in total offense, with quarterback Jordan Love throwing for 319 yards but getting picked off twice.
The Aggies were in position to win the game after a 1-yard run from Darwin Thompson with 5:05 to play, but MSU answered with the final scoring drive and the defensive stop.
Utah State struck first by marching 75 yards on seven plays to open the game, taking just 2:02 off the clock to take a 7-0 lead on Love’s 1-yard run.
While the Aggies were clicking early, the Spartans were having trouble. The first drive stalled after Lewerke was sacked and led to a career-long 49-yard field goal from Matt Coghlin to trim the deficit to 7-3. On the next drive, Michigan State was third-and-goal inside the Utah State 1 before a false start and another sack forced the Spartans to settle for a 32-yard Coghlin field goal to make it 7-6 late in the first quarter.
The Spartans took their first lead, 13-7, on an 8-yard pass from Lewerke to White with 10:49 to play in the first half. Utah State responded with a 2-yard touchdown run from Thompson with 6:55 to play in the second quarter to grab a 14-13 lead.
Michigan State then closed the half with its best drive, a 13-play, 75-yard effort that ended with a 10-yard pass from Lewerke to Davis to give the Spartans a 20-14 lead headed to halftime.
Michigan State carried the momentum into the second half, marching 81 yards on 10 plays as Heyward rambled into the end zone from 17 yards out to give the Spartans a 27-14 lead with 9:06 left in the third quarter.
After forcing a punt, MSU had a chance to put the game out of reach but went three-and-out.
Utah State took advantage by cutting the deficit to 27-17 with 1:55 to play in the third quarter on a 40-yard field goal from Dominik Eberle. On the next play from scrimmage, safety Gaje Ferguson intercepted a Lewerke pass and returned it 40 yards for the touchdown to trim the MSU lead to 27-24.
Michigan State tacked on a 24-yard field goal with 10:23 to play after a White touchdown catch was nullified by an illegal formation penalty. Utah State then kept the momentum rolling when it took the lead with 5:05 to play before MSU’s winning drive.
—Field Level Media