Joe Southwick’s pass on fourth down was broken up, and another Boise State drive ended without a touchdown.
It turned out to be the Broncos’ last chance. On a night when Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell outgained the Broncos all by himself, they never got the ball back.
”He’s one of those guys that if you keep giving him the ball he’s going to get stronger,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. ”They have a big offensive line. Eventually you’re going to get worn out on defense. We’ve got to be able to help ourselves on the other side of the ball, but we didn’t do that.”
Bell ran for a career-high 210 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 8:12 remaining in No. 13 Michigan State’s 17-13 victory over No. 24 Boise State on Friday night.
In a sloppy season opener, the Spartans turned the ball over four times and trailed 13-10 before Bell scored from 5 yards out midway through the fourth quarter. The Broncos drove to the Michigan State 42, but Southwick’s pass on fourth-and-2 was incomplete.
Bell and the Spartans (1-0) then ran off the final 6:32.
”I had no idea how many carries or yards I had. It was the most I’ve had in my collegiate career,” Bell said. ”But I’ve still got a lot of things to work on to get better.”
Boise State (0-1) was sluggish in its first game after losing standouts Kellen Moore and Doug Martin from last season’s explosive offense. The Broncos’ only touchdown came on Jeremy Ioane’s 43-yard interception return in the second quarter.
”We’ve got to do better in the red zone and we’ve got to be able to run the ball better,” Petersen said. ”If we do those two things we’ll be OK on offense.”
Bell became Michigan State’s undisputed top running back when Edwin Baker left to enter the NFL draft after last season. His workload certainly increased Friday. His 44 carries more than doubled his previous career high of 20, and the junior also set career marks with six receptions for 55 yards.
The Spartans outgained Boise State 461 yards to 206.
”Michigan State has a great defense. There’s no hiding that,” Southwick said. ”They did a great job all night up front, in the box taking care of the run and putting pressure. Hats off to them. They did a great job.”
Michigan State leaned on Bell, especially after new starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell threw three first-half interceptions. Maxwell finished 22 of 38 for 248 yards.
Southwick, replacing Moore at quarterback for Boise State, went 15 of 31 for 169 yards with an interception.
Bell started Michigan State’s go-ahead drive with a 7-yard run and later caught a pass for 11 yards. He even blocked a pass rusher to allow Maxwell to find Dion Sims for an 18-yard pass on third down that put the ball at the Boise State 7.
Two plays later, the Spartans had the lead.
On fourth-and-2 in Michigan State territory, Boise State’s D.J. Harper appeared to have an easy first down on a pitchout, but officials blew the play dead for a Michigan State timeout.
Southwick then attempted a pass that was defended well by Darqueze Dennard.
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 lead on Bell’s 1-yard touchdown run.
The Spartans never really took control, though. Maxwell completed his first four passes, but his slant attempt was dropped by Tony Lippett right into the arms of Boise State’s Jamar Taylor. The interception led to a field goal, which the Spartans answered when Dan Conroy made a 50-yarder to give Michigan State a 10-3 lead.
In the second quarter, the Broncos went to a couple of their tricks — a flea-flicker for 23 yards and then a wide receiver pass that fell incomplete. They drove to the Michigan State 9-yard line, but Southwick’s third-down pass was deflected by Isaiah Lewis and intercepted by fellow defensive back RJ Williamson, who was on his back in the end zone.
The Spartans quickly returned the favor when Maxwell’s screen pass bounced off intended receiver Larry Caper right to Ioane, who returned the interception for a touchdown.
Boise State took the lead on Michael Frisina’s 19-yard field goal, and the teams traded two more turnovers in the last two minutes of the half — a muffed lateral by the Broncos and another interception by Maxwell deep in Boise State territory.
In the third quarter, the Spartans missed a field goal, lost a fumble and lost 10 yards on a failed reverse on the last play of the period.