No. 2 Michigan State narrowly avoids Purdue comeback bid

Michigan State survives scare from Purdue

LJ Scott rushes for 146 yards and two touchdowns as Michigan State holds on for a 24-21 win over Purdue.

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- A cold rain drove away most of the 74,000-plus fans who came to Michigan State’s homecoming Saturday afternoon by halftime. They didn’t miss much from their Spartans.

No. 2 Michigan State built a 21-0 lead in the second quarter, then hung on during an uninspiring second half that almost ended their undefeated season against the 1-4 Boilermakers. Spartans quarterback Connor Cook threw for only 11 yards in the final two quarters and the offense managed only a field goal. Purdue closed the gap to a field goal in the fourth quarter before falling 24-21.

Purdue running back Markell Jones' 68-yard touchdown run through the middle of Michigan State’s defense to start the fourth quarter brought the Boilermakers within a touchdown. He scored from three yards out on the following drive to make the score 24-21. Purdue drove the ball to midfield with a minute remaining, but cornerback Arjen Colquhoun broke up a fourth-down pass attempt to end the upset threat.

The Spartans looked more like the second-best team in the country during the first half. They took advantage of early mistakes by Purdue -- two fumbles and a personal foul -- to score three first-half touchdowns. Freshman L.J. Scott accounted for the first two on an 18-yard run and a 1-yard score in the first quarter.

The win came at a cost for Michigan State’s offensive line, which may be down another tackle for the foreseeable future. Sophomore Dennis Finley, who replaced starter Jack Conklin at left tackle Saturday, left in the second quarter with a right leg injury. Conklin and right tackle Kodi Kieler were both out of action with their own injuries for Saturday’s game.

What the win means for Michigan State: The Spartans may drop in the polls after getting a serious scare from the Boilermakers, but they remain undefeated five weeks into the season. For now, that’s all that matters.

What the loss means for Purdue: For the third straight year, Purdue put a scare into the mighty Spartans. Moral victories still count for something for the Boilermakers, who can be happy with what they saw from Jones and their rushing attack Saturday.

Player of the game: Jones averaged 7.1 yards per carry against a Michigan State defense that prides itself on stopping the run. Just five games into his college career, Jones pounded his way to two scores and 157 yards against a Spartans defense that allowed fewer than 150 rushing yards in three of its first four games this season.

Stat of the game: The win for Michigan State gives Cook his 28th career victory as a starting quarterback in East Lansing. That puts him one win ahead of former Spartan quarterback Kirk Cousins for the most in program history. Cook is 28-3 during the past two-plus seasons with his only three losses coming to Notre Dame, Oregon and Ohio State. He ended the game 13-of-19 for 139 yards.