EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Northwestern quarterback Brett Basanez played part of his freshman year with a broken leg. Last season, he struggled with a shoulder injury.
The senior is relatively healthy this season. And it showed Saturday as he led surging Northwestern to a 49-14 victory over No. 22 Michigan State.
Basanez passed for 331 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two more scores to lead the Wildcats (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten) to their third straight win.
The game was billed as a meeting between two of the nation's best offenses, but miscues by the Spartans (4-3, 1-3 Big Ten) allowed the game to turn into a rout. Michigan State has now lost three straight, while the Wildcats remain in the middle of the conference title race.
"I think I've learned a lot in my career here," said Basanez, Northwestern's all-time leader in passing yardage. "I'm kind of at a point now where I know what's it like. You come in and you kind of think you know, but now I know what this team needs and what this offense needs as far as leadership style."
Michigan State entered the game third in the nation and first in the Big Ten in total offense, while Northwestern ranked fourth in the nation and second in the conference.
Michigan State scored on the game's first possession, going 75 yards in just three plays, the last an 18-yard touchdown pass from Drew Stanton to Kerry Reed. But the Spartans' own mistakes -- two interceptions in the end zone, two missed field goals and a fumble that was returned for a score -- allowed Northwestern to take a 21-7 halftime lead.
The Wildcats went up 28-7 on their first drive of the second half, capped by a 14-yard TD pass from Basanez to Eric Peterman.
Michigan State, playing on its homecoming day, did not score again until midway through the fourth quarter.
"They played harder than we did," Michigan State coach John L. Smith said. "They played much better than we did."
Basanez, who entered the game as the Big Ten's passing yardage leader, completed 24-of-30 passes and did not throw an interception. His favorite target was Shaun Herbert, who caught 10 passes for 138 yards.
Freshman running back Tyrell Sutton had 109 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
Stanton entered Saturday's game as the nation's leader in passing efficiency. But he struggled Saturday, completing 20-of-38 passes for 234 yards, a TD and three costly interceptions.
"We didn't execute on offense and it falls on my shoulders," Stanton said. "I made too many mistakes."
Freshman running back Javon Ringer had 104 yards on 18 carries for the Spartans.
The much-maligned Northwestern defense ranked 116th in the nation coming in, allowing more than 500 yards per game. Michigan State had 480 yards of total offense Saturday but not much to show for it, especially in the first half.
Northwestern gained 533 yards of total offense and was more opportunistic than the Spartans.
"We made some big plays, created some turnovers and created some opportunities," Northwestern coach Randy Walker said.
The Wildcats scored on their third possession -- a 41-yard drive capped by a 4-yard TD run by Basanez -- to tie the game at 7-7.
Stanton was intercepted in the end zone by Wildcats safety Brendan Smith, who returned it 37 yards to set up Northwestern's second touchdown drive. On Michigan State's next possession, a fumble by Stanton was returned 86 yards for a touchdown by
Northwestern linebacker Demetrius Eaton.
Michigan State's John Goss missed field-goal attempts of 47 and 37 yards in the first half.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... The Wildcats scored touchdowns on their first four possessions of the second half.
Gameball goes to... Northwestern QB Brett Basanez, who threw for 331 yards and 2 TDs and ran for two more scores.
Stat of the game... 4: Michigan State QB Drew Stanton threw three INTs and also fumbled.