3:30 PM ET, October 11, 2008
Ryan Field, Evanston, IL
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern used an attacking defense -- and a weak schedule -- to jump out to its best start in 46 years.
But facing a ranked team for the first time this season, the Wildcats couldn't make the big stops against No. 23 Michigan State.
Javon Ringer rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns as the Spartans cruised to a 37-20 win over previously unbeaten North
western on Saturday.
With a new coordinator in Mike Hankwitz, Northwestern's defense shined during the team's 5-0 start. But it couldn't overcome mistakes on offense and special teams that gave the Spartans great field position early.
Michigan State (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) scored 17 straight points in the first quarter with the help of a pair of Northwestern turnovers, and never looked back.
• Javon Ringer ran for 124 yards and two touchdowns to lead Michigan State. Ringer now has 14 rushing touchdowns this season, the most among FBS players.
• Ringer has 1,112 yards on the season, becoming the first Spartan with back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons since T.J. Duckett in 2000-01. He also has 3,782 rushing yards, which is now third most in school history.
• The Spartans moved to 6-1 on the season, 3-0 in the Big Ten, their best start since 2003. They have also won six straight, their longest win streak since 1999.
-- ESPN research
The 5-foot-9, 202-pound Ringer had his fifth 100-yard game of the season and went over 1,000 yards for the second straight year. Ringer, who leads the nation with 14 rushing touchdowns, carried the ball 35 times.
"Great game, tough game," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "He got the tough yards. No fumbles, a big catch on a swing [pass]. He's a complete football player."
Ringer gained only 3.5 yards per carry, more than a yard less than he's averaged this season.
"We knew they were going to do their best to try and bring people into the box," Ringer said. "All the credit goes to my offensive line. They continue to produce and continue to give me the holes that I need to be able to help move the ball down the field."
Both teams came in undefeated in the Big Ten. Michigan State left tied for first with Ohio State and Penn State, which played Saturday night at Wisconsin. The Spartans host Ohio State next.
"It will be an exciting atmosphere next week," Dantonio said.
Northwestern (5-1, 1-1) had been off to its best start since 1962, mostly by beating up on nonconference lightweights.
"We beat ourselves," Sutton said. "We had three turnovers and it was a three possession game. That's the tale of the game right there."
Sutton rushed 23 times for 139 yards and caught six passes for 44 yards.
Already leading 7-0 on Brian Hoyer's 3-yard scoring pass to Garrett Celek, the Spartans started their next two possessions in Northwestern territory thanks to turnovers. After Sherrick McManis fumbled a kickoff at his 25-yard line, Michigan State got a 26-yard field goal from Brett Swenson.
Michigan State safety Dan Fortener picked off C.J. Bacher on the Wildcats' next drive, returning it 21 yards to Northwestern's 34. Four plays later, Ringer bounced outside and scored from 13 yards out to make it 17-0 with 2:34 to play in the quarter.
"I don't think we were poised or focused to do our job," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "When a team doesn't play with poise and discipline, you get what you deserve, and that's what happened today."
Hoyer threw two short touchdown passes and was 14-of-20 for 169 yards.
"[Ringer] was getting a workload and they were bringing some guys up, so we had to take advantage of that," Hoyer said. "We came out, got hot quick and we were able to move the ball. We had great field position all day."
Sutton ripped off a career-high 66-yard run in Northwestern's first drive of the second half. Bacher then hit Rasheed Ward for a 6-yard touchdown pass to make it 24-14.
The Wildcats tried an onside kick, but were penalized for interference. That gave the Spartans the ball on the 32. Hoyer connected with Andrew Hawken on a 21-yard pass and Ringer ended the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to keep Michigan State's lead safe.
"When you look at our special teams, when we said we had to have explosive plays out there and superior special teams play, we got that," Dantonio said. "That can be as big as anything. Three big returns, field goals, punts dropping in there, recovered a fumble. Those are all big things for us."
Swenson set a school record with the second of his three field goals. His 42-yard kick in the third was his 14th consecutive field goal, breaking Paul Edinger's 1998 record.
Bacher went 34-for-61 for 283 yards and two interceptions. He threw for a school-record 520 yards in last season's 48-41 overtime win over the Spartans. But Bacher couldn't duplicate that result.
Cornerback Johnny Adams picked Bacher off in the end zone with the Wildcats trailing 17-7 in the second quarter. The Spartans drove 80 yards in 3:03 to go up 24-7 just before the half ended.
"That was a big momentum swing in the game," Fitzgerald said.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Javon Ringer's 13-yard scamper gave MSU a 17-0 lead with 2:34 left in the first quarter, giving the Spartans enough of a cushion to hold off the Wildcats.
Gameball goes to... Javon Ringer, who ran for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
Stat of the game... 0. Northwestern pushed hard to come back, but the Spartans didn't turn the ball over once to give the Wildcats a chance to get back in it.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||7-15||15-24|
|4th Down Conversions||1-1||2-3|
|TD||09:23||Garrett Celek 3 Yd Pass From Brian Hoyer (Brett Swenson Kick)||7||0|
|FG||05:55||Brett Swenson 26 Yd||10||0|
|TD||02:34||Javon Ringer 13 Yd Run (Brett Swenson Kick)||17||0|
|TD||13:55||C.J. Bacher 4 Yd Run (Amado Villarreal Kick)||17||7|
|TD||00:53||Andrew Hawken 7 Yd Pass From Brian Hoyer (Brett Swenson Kick)||24||7|
|TD||13:53||Rasheed Ward 6 Yd Pass From C.J. Bacher (Amado Villarreal Kick)||24||14|
|TD||10:23||Javon Ringer 1 Yd Run (Brett Swenson Kick)||31||14|
|FG||06:53||Amado Villarreal 31 Yd||31||17|
|FG||02:18||Brett Swenson 42 Yd||34||17|
|FG||11:53||Amado Villarreal 22 Yd||34||20|
|FG||05:54||Brett Swenson 34 Yd||37||20|