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Spartans Top Panthers, 38-23

Sept. 16, 2006

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PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Pitt Panthers had so much success early against Michigan State that when the Spartans finally stopped them on their first possession of the second quarter, they never recovered.

Pitt (2-1), which led 10-0, then watched the Spartans score 38 straight points before adding a pair of too-little, too-late touchdowns as Michigan State (3-0) won 38-23 on Saturday.

"I think that we did come out ready to play today," Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "I thought our guys came into this thing believing we could win -- but expecting someone else to do it for them."

Quarterback Tyler Palko said the key moment came in the second quarter when Pitt had to punt for the first time after a 3-and-out following Pitt's recovery of an onside kick.

"It seemed like it kind of deflated our momentum, and we never really recovered," Palko said.

"There was a mind-set of, 'Uh oh, what happens now?'" Wannstedt said.

Meanwhile, Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton -- who managed to scramble for 25 yards on three carries in the first quarter but didn't complete a pass -- finally got his legs underneath him.

Michigan State (3-0) scored 10 points in the second quarter and could have had 14 had Terry Love not dropped a 26-yard Stanton pass for a touchdown.

In the second half, Stanton -- who would finish 16-of-25 for 198 yards and two touchdowns -- led drives of 75, 64, 83 and 99 yards, the final scoring drive featuring a 71-yard misdirection run by Javon Ringer.

"I think, overall, as the game turned, we started to control the front line," Michigan State coach John L. Smith said. "And we started being able to run the football and there were some huge plays in there."

"And having a guy like Drew in there kind of helps," he said.



Stanton had his string of 14 games with at least 200 yards passing and one thrown touchdown broken Saturday, but he also ran for 105 more yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.

Early in the game, Stanton gained yards scrambling, but once Michigan State saw that Pitt could not handle the option, more of Stanton's runs came by design.

"When they discovered we weren't handling (the option), they kept coming back to it," Wannstedt said.

The option kept Pitt so off balance that Michigan State gained 335 yards on 48 carries, nearly 7 yards each. Ringer finished with 156 yards on 15 carries while fullback Jehuu Caulcrick added 64 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.

Pitt built its 10-0 lead on Conor Lee's 32-yard field goal and an 8-yard run by LaRod Stephens-Howling.

But Palko, who had completed seven of nine passes for 65 yards in the first quarter, threw an incomplete pass, saw Stephens-Howling stopped for a loss, then threw incomplete again after Pitt's successful onside kick.

After Pitt punted, the Spartans drove 63 yards in 13 plays on their next possession but settled for a field goal after Love's drop in the end zone.

After forcing Pitt to punt again, Michigan State drove 83 yards and scored on Stanton's 2-yard pass to Kellen Davis. The drive was keyed by a 21-yard run by Stanton and a 23-yard pass to Kerry Reed.

Pitt had a chance to take a lead just before the half, when T.J. Porter returned the ensuing kickoff 53 yards to the Michigan State 47. But after Palko completed a first-down pass to Stephens-Howling with 13 seconds left, Wannstedt opted not to use Pitt's last time out and Demond Williams intercepted Palko's hurried final pass of the half at the 2.

Asked why Pitt hadn't called timeout and thrown a shorter pass to set up a field goal, a perturbed Wannstedt said he was saving the timeout should the team get into field goal position. Instead, Palko saw a deep coverage scheme he liked and tried to force the ball to Kinder along the sideline.

"We weren't playing for a field goal," Palko said. "We saw the coverage. Why not take a shot?"

Kinder finished with 121 yards and a touchdown on nine catches, but the score came on the game's final play with the outcome decided.

"We expected a four-quarter game. It was a 0-0 game going into the second half, but we came out and squandered some opportunities and got our tail kicked," Palko said.

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