Oct. 23, 2010
EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) - Kirk Cousins threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns, and No. 8 Michigan State rallied to beat Northwestern 35-27 and remain unbeaten on Saturday.
B.J. Cunningham made an acrobatic grab for the go-ahead touchdown with two minutes left. Edwin Baker added a 25-yard scoring run and Eric Gordon intercepted Dan Persa in the closing seconds to seal a wild win.
Playing out of state for the first time this season, the Spartans scored 28 points in the second half. They trailed the entire way until Cunningham's grab with two minutes left on a ball that he and Northwestern's Brian Peters tipped in the end zone.
Cunningham corralled the ball as he crashed to the ground, giving Michigan State its first lead at 28-27. That catch on a first down at the 9 capped an 88-yard drive in which Cousins was 7 of 8 passing.
After a drive by the Wildcats went nowhere, Michigan State (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) took over at the Northwestern 31, and Baker broke through from the 25 to make it 35-27 with 1:07 left.
Northwestern (5-2, 1-2) had one more chance, but Gordon's interception preserved the win, and the Spartans cleared one big hurdle. They'll face another next week when they visit Iowa in a game that could go a long way toward determining the Big Ten champion.
If they beat the Hawkeyes, the Spartans will be in good position to claim their first conference title since they shared it in 1990. Then again, they might be aiming a little higher, considering they're off to their best start since the 1966 team won its first nine on the way to a 9-0-1 record and a national championship.
Coach Mark Dantonio was back on the sidelines for this one after working the previous two games from the pressbox following his mild heart attack last month, and he probably didn't like what he saw for much of the game, particularly in the first half.
Northwestern scored the first 17 points and led 17-7 at the break.
The Spartans had trouble containing the Wildcats' Dan Persa, who ran for 89 yards and three touchdowns. He also completed 18 of 29 passes for 187 yards but got sacked eight times and threw the late interception that sealed the outcome.
Persa's 6-yard run late in the third quarter made it 24-14, but Michigan State responded with a 75-yard drive that ended with a 15-yard pass from Cousins to Mark Dell with 13:12 left.
Stefan Demos kicked a 41-yard field goal with 9:47 remaining to boost the lead to 27-21, but the Wildcats couldn't hold it.