Stone-faced Spartan coach Mark Dantonio appeared even sterner than usual at his weekly Tuesday news conference.
The Spartans (2-0, 2-0 home) had just beat Tulsa 28-7 on Saturday. But many commentators and Spartan fans felt it was not much of a victory. Spartan defense was very good, keeping Tulsa to only 80 yards. But Michigan State’s fizzling offense moved in fits and starts, scoring only one touchdown during the game and 108 yards rushing.
“I can say this—football is a game of effort, toughness and knowing what to do,” Dantonio said. “Half of our team figured that out, half of it didn’t. We will make sure that other half gets figured out this week. So that’s my message to our football team.”
Message sent. Message received. The result? A crushing 51-17 Spartan victory over Western Michigan (1-1, 0-1 away).
Michigan State’s offense was suddenly, actually offensive, scoring three touchdowns in the first quarter alone. Lewerke threw for 314 yards. Elijah Collins ran for 192 yards on 17 carries. The plays were not only big, but fluid, coordinated. This wasn’t the same Spartan offense that played against Tulsa.
The Broncos tried gamely but had trouble covering Michigan State. They were unable to capitalize on a Spartan fumble and interception in the first half. A chance to shave Michigan State’s early lead to 14 points was lost when Xavier Henderson caught an end zone pass. This disappointment seemed to take some of the steam out of the Broncos. They now had to dig out of the hole they found themselves in.
The hole only got deeper. Broncos kicker Thiago Kapps first missed a 48-yard field goal. Then he missed a 27-yard field goal.
Like a wave, the Broncos offense rose and then receded again and again, never quite coming to shore. By the end of the first half the score was 31-7, Michigan State leading. The odds for Western Michigan to reverse the situation were worsening.
Matt Coughlin scored two field goals of 63 and 61 yards for the Spartans. Elijah Collins followed up with a touchdown, putting the score at 44-7, Michigan State leading.
Broncos quarterback Griffin Alstott threw a 15-yard touchdown pass with only 24 seconds left on the clock in the fourth quarter. But even with a 31-yard field goal by Kapps, the lopsided final score was 51-17.
Coach Dantonio spoke, the Spartans listened, and the Broncos got bucked.
Michigan State plays the Arizona Sun Devils on Saturday.