- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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EVANSTON, Ill. -- A few halftime thoughts at Ryan Field, where Northwestern leads No. 7 Michigan State 17-7.
Turning point: Northwestern didn't let a fumble at the Michigan State 1-yard line become a momentum swing. The defense forced a three-and-out and the offense converted for a field goal, before marching down field on its next drive to extend the lead to 17-0. Rather than letting Michigan State get back into it, Northwestern kept the pedal down.
Best player in the half: Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa. Persa showcased his dual-threat abilities on the national stage, completing 8 of 13 passes for 115 yards. The junior also has 38 rush yards and two scores on 11 carries, including a 22-yard burst. Wildcats freshman Adonis Smith also has stepped up with 32 rush yards on five carries.
Stat of the half: Michigan State finished the first half with only 50 rush yards on 14 carries. Northwestern allowed 232 rush yards and 165 rush yards in its previous two Big Ten games. The Spartans rushed for 175 yards or more in each of their first six games and 200 or more in five of their first six, but they had only 93 rush yards last week against Illinois.