|Michigan State RB Le'Veon Bell came on strong in the second half to help the Spartans pull off a comeback win. (US Presswire)|
In a game that was mostly controlled by the defenses, it came down to special teams in the fourth quarter. TCU muffed a punt that led to Michigan State's first lead. TCU responded with a field goal, and Michigan State answered back with a game-winning field goal and a 17-16 win.
The Spartans (7-6) keeping you on the edge of your seat was nothing new. This was a team that lost five games in the Big Ten by a combined 12 points. They also had three wins by four points or fewer.
For much of the game, it looked like it was going to be another loss and not as close as the others. The Horned Frogs (7-6) led 13-0 at halftime, as the Spartans' passing attack was non-existent and star RB Le'Veon Bell was held to 38 yards.
Bell eventually got going in the second half and a hard-on-the-eyes pass from Bell to TyQuan Hammock set up Michigan State's first touchdown. Without more trickery, it was tough to imagine the Spartans getting in position to score again until TCU senior Skye Dawson was unable to catch a punt near his own goal line in the fourth quarter. Michigan State's RJ Williamson recovered at the 4-yard line, and two plays later Bell ran in the go-ahead score.
The TCU offense, which had sputtered throughout the second half, moved the ball enough to set up a 53-yard field goal for freshman Jaden Oberkrom, which he boomed through the uprights with 2:42 left to give TCU back the lead. But the Spartans came right back and gave their kicker, senior Dan Conroy, a chance to play hero. Conroy connected from 47 yards with 1:01 left on the clock and his teammates carried him off the field.
When the game turned: Dawson's fumble. It's not likely the Horned Frogs would have lost the game had Dawson made the catch or let the punt go.
Highlight moments: College kickers are rarely so clutch, so you have to give it up to Oberkrom and Conroy for their field goals in the final minutes, both of which would have been good from longer distances. ... Bell's pass was not a thing of beauty but a well-executed play. Bell faked a run and stopped to loft a pass to Hammock that went for 29 yards and set up Michigan State's first touchdown. ... Boykin made two great throws to extend drives that led to field goals in the first half, two plays that might have been the difference in the game had Dawson not fumbled. The first came on third-and-8 at the end of the first quarter. Boykin rolled to his right and a split-second before taking a hard hit, he threw deep to Kolby Listenbee for a 59-yard completion, which was his first catch all season. On third-and-9 in the second quarter, Boykin found Josh Boyce along the sideline and he took off across the field for a 61-yard completion.
Significance of Michigan State's win: The Spartans can claim that they were a few breaks from winning 10 or 11 games because of all the close losses. Michigan State's defense played great, but the offense still has some issues and might need to replace its best playmaker if Bell, a junior, ends up entering the NFL Draft.
Significance of TCU's loss: This isn't that big of deal for the Horned Frogs. Their young defense ended up leading the Big 12 in total defense and should be one of the league's best again next year. The big question is at quarterback and whether Casey Pachall will return next season. The Horned Frogs have a defense that's good enough to compete for a Big 12 title, but it will be tough to do that if they don't get better play fat quarterback. Boykin did show some promise, so all hope is not lost if he ends up as the starter.
Top shelf performances:
- Michigan State RB Bell -- 32 carries for 145 yards, TD
- TCU WR Boyce -- 5 catches for 91 yards
Numbers you should know:
2-0 -- Turnover margin won by Michigan State. TCU forced 25 turnovers in its wins and had only seven takeaways in its losses. The Spartans not hurting themselves was a big difference.
145 -- Rushing yards for Michigan State. TCU led the Big 12 in rushing defense, allowing 103.9 yards per game coming into Saturday.
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from Big 12 bloggers C.J. Moore and Patrick Southern, follow @CBSSportsBig12 on Twitter. You can also follow C.J. (@cjmoore4) and Patrick (@patricksouthern).