EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP)—Michigan freshman quarterback Tate Forcier showed his talent, toughness and youth in Saturday’s loss at Michigan State.
Forcier was calm under pressure and fired two touchdown passes late in the fourth quarter to erase a 14-point deficit and get the Wolverines into overtime against their instate Big Ten rivals.
His youth showed on the first possession of the extra session. Tired and sore, Forcier forced a throw into tight coverage in the end zone. The pass intended for Martavious Odoms was deflected by Michigan State’s Danny Fortener and intercepted by the Spartans’ Chris L. Rucker.
Freshman Larry Caper ran for a 23-yard touchdown in the next series to give the Spartans a 26-20 overtime victory against the Wolverines, who were ranked No. 22 entering the game but fell out of the latest Associated Press poll released Sunday. Michigan State (2-3, 1-1) has beaten Michigan (4-1, 1-1) two years in a row for the first time since winning three straight from 1965-67.
“It was just a miscommunication thing,” Forcier said of the overtime interception. “I thought (Odoms) was going to keep coming. The safety ended up coming. He was the one that kept coming. I just threw it and like I said, it was a freshman mistake.”
Forcier helped Michigan to a 4-0 start at home this season, including game-winning drives against Notre Dame and Indiana. But the Wolverines stumbled in their first road game despite a furious late rally in regulation that culminated with Forcier’s 9-yard TD pass to Roy Roundtree with 2 seconds remaining.
Forcier completed 17 of 32 passes for 223 yards and also scrambled effectively despite playing with a sore right shoulder injured in last week’s win over Indiana.
“Tate’s a very conscientious guy—he’ll learn from this,” coach Rich Rodriguez said. “I mean, he’s a true freshman and to have a true freshman out there competing the way he did is pretty remarkable. He’ll keep growing and getting better from this day.”
Michigan State, meanwhile, was fortunate to have two talented sophomore quarterbacks Saturday. Keith Nichol stepped in and played much of the fourth quarter and the overtime after starter Kirk Cousins was slowed with an ankle injury.
Michigan State lost 9 yards on a botched running play to start its overtime possession. Nichol then completed an 11-yard pass to B.J. Cunningham to move the Spartans to the 23-yard line, setting up Caper’s game-winning run.
Cousins was 15 of 21 for 152 yards, with two interceptions—one off a deflection and one when he was hit while throwing. Cousins also rushed for 75 yards on seven carries.
Cousins, a more accurate passer, has started all five games for Michigan State. Nichol—an Oklahoma transfer and a better runner—has played an important role in each game.
Nichol may have quashed whatever quarterback controversy remained in East Lansing after the victory, appearing to have settled into his role.
“We’re a tandem, we’re a team,” Nichol said of his relationship with Cousins. “We play for each other, we play for each other’s families. This competition is over.”
Nichol finished 5 of 8 for 68 yards Saturday.
“I thought our quarterback situation played out very well,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said.
Michigan State’s defense helped with 10 tackles for a loss, including three sacks. The Spartans dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 40 minutes compared to 20 minutes for Michigan.