Bell leads Michigan State to come-from-behind win over Boise

Dana Gauruder, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State found a powerful cure for a case of season-opening jitters: The Spartans gave the Boise State defense a heavy dose of 244-pound junior tailback Le'Veon Bell.
Bell gained 210 yards on 44 carries and scored both of the Spartans' touchdowns in a 17-13 victory Friday night at Spartan Stadium. Bell also caught six passes for 55 yards as No. 13 Michigan State overcame four turnovers and extended its home winning streak to 15 games.
"I had no idea how many carries or yards I had, I was just out there running, trying to win the game," Bell said. "That's the most I've ever had in my collegiate career. It's a great accomplishment for me, but I've still got things to work on and get better at."
Both teams struggled offensively with quarterbacks making their first start while replacing departed stars. Michigan State junior Andrew Maxwell completed 22 of 38 passes for 248 yards but threw three first-half interceptions. He's the replacement for current Washington Redskins backup Kirk Cousins, who led the Spartans to back-to-back 11-win seasons.
Boise State's Joe Southwick, the junior successor to Kellen Moore, completed 15 of 31 passes for 169 yards with one interception. Moore, now with the Detroit Lions, set an Division I FBS record with 50 wins. The Broncos averaged 44.2 points last season under Moore, while the Cousins-led Spartans scored at a 31.0-point clip.
The No. 24-ranked Broncos had defeated ranked opponents in their previous three openers -- No. 14 Oregon in 2009, No. 7 Virginia Tech in 2010 and No. 19 Georgia last season. But the Spartans defense held them to 206 total yards, including 37 rushing yards.
"Our defense played really hard, really well," said coach Chris Petersen, who lost an opener for the first time in his seven years with the Broncos. "We just keep them on the field way too long. That's a big, physical team on offense. If we don't do anything more with our offense, we don't have much of a chance."
Bell scored on a 5-yard run around the right side with 8:12 remaining for the go-ahead score. Maxwell's 18-yard, third-down pass to tight end Dion Sims moved Michigan State inside the Broncos' 10-yard-line and Bell did the rest.
Southwick threw an incompletion on fourth-and-2 at the Spartans' 42 during Boise State's next possession. The Spartans then ran out the clock.
"It's a nice feeling," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said of the way his team finished. "We need to have more of those. We've found a way to win close games (in recent years). When you do that, you start to believe in yourself. That belief is still there. It's very important to not only come from behind but also to win a close game. We'll grow with that."
Maxwell was intercepted three times in the first half as Boise State led 13-10 at halftime.
Bell's 23-yard run, during which he hurdled safety Jeremy Ioane, highlighted the Spartans' scoring drive on their opening possession. Bell gained 35 of their 60 yards on the 12-play drive and scored on a 1-yard, third-down plunge.
"He broke some tackles for some big, explosive gains and then other times he made something out of nothing by sort of dragging people a little bit," Dantonio said of Bell. "That's a reflection of what a great back he is and how powerful a guy he is."
Jamar Taylor's interception and 28-yard return set up the Broncos' first score. Michael Frisina kicked a 23-yard field goal to make it 7-3.
Michigan State nudged the lead back to seven, 10-3, before the end of the first quarter after a gamble by coach Mark Dantonio. With the Spartans facing a fourth-and-1 from their 36, Dantonio called a running play instead of a punt and Bell picked up two yards. Dan Conroy completed the drive with a 50-yard field goal.
Ioane's 43-yard interception return for a touchdown tied the game with 8:53 remaining in the half. Maxwell rushed a throw under pressure from unblocked lineman Sam Ukwuachu and it glanced off running back Larry Caper's hands to Ioane, who cruised into the end zone.
Frisina's 19-yard field goal with 4:23 remaining in the half gave the Broncos a 13-10 advantage but they were shut down in the second half.
"I think the guys will respond well to this," Southwick said. "It's a little adversity. This will help us in the long run. We're going to be very focused for our next opponent and future opponents. This will be very motivating for our team."
NOTES: Conroy's 50-yard field goal was the fourth of his career. ... This was the first meeting between the schools. Boise State's only previous game against a Big Ten opponent was a 28-24 loss to Wisconsin on Sept. 6, 1997. ... Sims had a team-high seven receptions for 65 yards. ... The Spartans are 3-5-1 against ranked opponents in season openers and 8-4 in night games at Spartan Stadium.