Spartans did just enough to win opener
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP)
Michigan State controlled the line of scrimmage in the opening minutes and again at the end.
In between, the Spartans made enough mistakes that they needed a fourth-quarter rally to overcome an inexperienced Boise State team.
''I'm very proud of how our football team responded and continued to play,'' Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. ''The turnovers have a way of deflating you, and things just kept happening. Going into the fourth quarter we needed the last two drives to get the win and we got them, and that's what impressed me. Guys grew up a little bit.''
Le'Veon Bell was too much for the 24th-ranked Broncos, outgaining the entire Boise State team and scoring both Michigan State touchdowns. After taking the lead, the 13th-ranked Spartans were able to run off the final 6:32 to seal the 17-13 victory.
It was close in part because of four Michigan State turnovers, which nearly negated a 461-206 advantage in total yards.
Bell ran for a career-high 210 yards on 44 carries. He also set career marks with six receptions for 55 yards.
''I thought our defense played really hard, really well. We just kept them on the field way too long,'' Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. ''That's a big, physical team on offense, and if we don't do anything more with our offense then we don't have much of a chance.''
Boise State had its six-game winning streak against BCS-conference teams snapped, and the Broncos sure didn't look very explosive while trying to replace quarterback Kellen Moore and running back Doug Martin from last season's team.
Joe Southwick, replacing Moore at quarterback, went 15 of 31 for 169 yards with an interception.
Michigan State, meanwhile, extended its home winning streak to 15 games. The Spartans also have a new quarterback - Andrew Maxwell is now taking snaps with Kirk Cousins in the NFL. Maxwell went 22 of 38 for 248 yards with three first-half interceptions - although two of them came off dropped passes.
''Not exactly how you dream the first half to go, but you have to play for the next play,'' Maxwell said. ''Mistakes are going to happen, those are growing pains. It's a game of inches and an inch either way, those plays can be completely different. There's a character to our team to bring me back from those mistakes and just keep battling.''
Michigan State leaned heavily on Bell and its highly touted defense, and that was enough. Boise State's only touchdown came on Jeremy Ioane's 43-yard interception return in the second quarter. The Spartans seemed content to leave defensive backs in man-to-man coverage late in the game, and try as they did, the Broncos couldn't connect on a deep pass that might have swung the game back in their favor.
''I wasn't really happy at halftime. I came in, in a storm,'' Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said. ''Just the little communication things in an opener, not knowing exactly what you are going to get offensively from Boise State. I give them a lot of credit for what they do. They have a great program and they all know how to move the ball. They are a great challenge for any defense that they ever play.''
Bell became Michigan State's undisputed top running back when Edwin Baker left to enter the NFL draft after last season. Bell's 44 carries Friday more than doubled his previous career high of 20.
The Spartans took the lead in the fourth on Bell's 5-yard scoring run. Then on fourth-and-2 in Michigan State territory, Southwick's pass was broken up.
Boise State looked overmatched at the start. After a quick three-and-out, the Broncos punted and let Michigan State drive 60 yards in 12 plays for a 7-0 advantage on Bell's 1-yard touchdown run.
But the Spartans could never extend their lead and needed to withstand a tense finish.
''We have found a way to win close games, and I think when you do that you start to believe in yourself, and that was there,'' Dantonio said. ''Not only to come from behind but to win a close game. We will continue to grow.''