It wasn’t exactly a blowout, this season-opening matchup between the No. 5 team in the country and a MAC opponent, but Michigan State got the win it was expected to get Friday night.
The first half was a prolific one for the Spartans, who scored four touchdowns on four quick scoring drives. And despite being outscored by Western Michigan, 14-10, in the second half, Michigan State walked out of Kalamazoo with a still-convincing 37-24 victory.
Connor Cook did a dandy of a job kicking off a season of high expectations for himself and the team, throwing for 256 yards and a pair of touchdowns with just 15 completions. The Michigan State offense as a whole was mighty impressive, accumulating 452 total yards, with 196 of those coming from a run game that had a few question marks with the departure of Jeremy Langford. L.J. Scott rushed 13 times for 77 yards, Madre London rushed 13 times for 59 yards and Gerald Holmes rushed nine times for 54 yards. London scored two touchdowns, and Holmes scored one.
Cook led touchdown drives of 34 seconds, three minutes and 49 seconds, one minute and 41 seconds and two minutes and 37 seconds in the first half, showing that last year’s electric Michigan State offense still has the same capabilities.
Cook hooked up with Josiah Price for a first-half touchdown and DeAnthony Arnett for a second-half score.
The Spartans defense, which lost defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi over the offseason, had a mixed bag of an evening. While it was tremendous in stopping the run, limiting Western Michigan to a jaw-droppingly low 18 rushing yards on 23 carries, the pass defense — breaking in a few new starters — was exploited for 365 yards but also intercepted a pair of passes.
Western Michigan had a couple impressive drives in the second half, scoring touchdowns on back-to-back possessions to get the game as close as 10 points. The first was a near-eight-minute drive that covered 75 yards and answered Michigan State’s touchdown-scoring drive to open the third quarter. After a Spartans punt, the Broncos went 80 yards in eight plays for a touchdown that couldn’t help but make MSU supporters sweat just a bit.
The biggest issue for Michigan State, though, was a strange one: kick-return coverage. Western Michigan returned the opening kickoff for 65 yards, and the next went for a 100-yard touchdown.
While this was the win the Spartans wanted to start things off with in 2015, there'll be things to clean up heading into the big Week 2 matchup with Oregon.