EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State found a powerful cure for a case of season-opening jitters. They 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 at Spartan Stadium Friday night. 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.
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.
Bell scored on a 5-yard run around the right side with 8:12 remaining to give the Spartans the 17-13 lead. 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.
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. Maxwell completed all four of his pass attempts, two to tight end Dion Sims.
Jamar Taylor's interception and 28-yard return set up the Broncos' first score. Wide receiver Tony Lippett, not Maxwell, was responsible for the turnover as Taylor snatched the ball away after Lippett juggled Maxwell's throw. 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.
Southwick squandered a Boise State scoring opportunity early in the second when he was picked off by redshirt freshman safety RJ Williamson in the end zone. Fellow safety Isaiah Lewis tipped the third-down pass after the Broncos reached the MSU 9.
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. Southwick's 40-yard pass to Matt Miller moved Boise State to the MSU 4 but it only gained two yards the next three plays.
In the closing seconds of the half, Maxwell threw a pass behind receiver Bennie Fowler and Lee Hightower picked it off at the Broncos' 3-yard line.
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. ... The schools had a combined 46 victories over the last two seasons. ... The Spartans were 2-5-1 against ranked opponents in season openers. They were 7-4 in the previous 11 night games at Spartan Stadium.