EAST LANSING - Coming off their bye week, No. 11 ranked Michigan State played far from its best against Purdue. But as has been the case throughout the 2010 season, the resilient Spartans found a way to win a game they probably should not have.
Head coach Mark Dantonio wore a look of pride on his face, not relief, at the podium during his post-game press conference. He had reason to be, as his Spartans kept their Big Ten championship hopes intact by outscoring the Boilermakers 22-3 to pull off a 35-31 victory on senior day.
"Outstanding job by our football team hanging in," Dantonio said. "I thought Purdue came ready to play. We didn't play our best football, we had the pick six and gave up the big play, but we just kept playing. We knew that we needed to catch fire emotionally and we finally did in the fourth quarter to go."
Michigan State forced three Purdue turnovers in the fourth quarter. The Spartans found themselves at the Purdue 20-yard-line after senior Chris L. Rucker returned an interception thrown by Rob Henry 20 yards to set up a 5-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins.
After pulling within a field goal on a touchdown catch and 2-point conversion try to Mark Dell, the Spartans took full advantage of a blocked punt by Denicos Allen that set up Michigan State inside 3-yard-line where Cousins scored with a run on second-and-goal.
"Punt is the most important play in football, as you saw today" said Dantonio. "We pinned them down there a couple of times inside the five, one time they got out with the long ball. Then we blocked a punt on them. You have got to be successful on punt. That is one play where you should pick up 30 yards at the minimum every single time, if you do it right."
Sophomore linebacker Chris Norman had the third takeaway for the Spartans. He put the game away with an interception with 44 seconds in the game.
Michigan State ran the ball effectively behind a 91-yard effort from Edwin Baker. The Spartans will take that total considering the circumstances of the game and the quality rush defense they were facing.
"People put more up there (in the box), they have a good run defense, and they have good players," answered Dantonio when asked why his team has rushed for fewer yards during the best six weeks. "Why has it been tougher, because we are in conference. When you are playing out of conference sometimes you are not playing the competition that is in conference. By the time you get to this point in the season people pretty much know what type of running plays you are going to run."