EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- It wasn't easy for No. 21 Michigan State, but Le'Veon Bell rushed for a career-high 253 yards and a touchdown to help the stagnant Spartans avoid a major upset with a 23-7 win over Eastern Michigan on Saturday.
Dan Conroy kicked three field goals for Michigan State, which failed to score a TD for more than seven quarters until Andrew Maxwell hit tight end Dion Sims on a 10-yard pass with 7:19 left.
Michigan State struggled mightily through most of its final tuneup for next week's Big Ten opener against unbeaten Ohio State. But Maxwell finally found Sims three times for 73 yards in the fourth quarter.
Coming off a 20-3 loss to Notre Dame in which their offense was limited to under 300 yards, the Spartans finished with a 428-183 edge in total offense against the Eagles.
Bell carried 36 times in the sixth-best rushing performance in school history and also took over as the team's primary punt returner in the second quarter. For long stretches, he seemed like the Spartans' only option on offense.
The Eagles (0-4) were routed 54-16 at Purdue last weekend and came as close as they ever have to upsetting a ranked team, matching a 16-point loss at Ball State in 2008. This time, they led 7-6 until 1:11 was left in the third quarter.
Tyler Benz made his first start at quarterback for Eastern Michigan and was 13-for-26 for 137 yards and a touchdown. He hit Donald Scott for a 23-yard score late in the second quarter to give his team a 7-3 lead.
But Scott dropped what would have been a 44-yard TD in the fourth quarter when the game was still in reach.
The Spartans sputtered all through the first half and managed to get just enough key plays in the third quarter to take on 9-7 lead on field goals of 44 and 35 yards by Conroy.