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Lombardi Leads MSU to Improbable Win Over Streaking Purdue

MSU Football
Zachary Swiecicki

A hot Purdue football team, fresh off of upsetting Ohio State last week, came to into East Lansing to take on injury-riddled Michigan State. Redshirt freshman quarterback Rocky Lombardi made his debut as a starter, filling in for the injured Brian Lewerke.

The Michigan State defense was stout early as defensive back David Dowell picked-off Purdue quarterback David Blough on the Boilermakers opening drive. That turnover would set up a seven-play 24-yard drive that put the Spartans in position for a 43-yard Matt Coghlin field goal. The Spartan defense would hold Purdue’s offense on the ensuing Boilermaker drive, but a muffed punt put Purdue just outside of the red zone. They capitalized on the field position with a 28-yard field goal by Spencer Evans. 

Under Lombardi the MSU offense actually appeared functional as the Spartans were able to orchestrate a responding 42-yard drive resulting in another Coghlin FG that gave MSU a 6-3 lead at the end of the first.

In the second quarter Purdue was able to tie the game 6-6 with a 35-yard field goal but apart from that, the Michigan State defense controlled the Boilermaker offense. The Spartan offense meanwhile continued to look impressive. At the end of the half, Lombardi led MSU on a nine play 87-yard drive that ended with an 11-yard TD pass to Darrell Stewart. Lombardi finished the half 16-27 for 179 yards and a TD.

The "Rocky" magic continued into the second half as Lombardi led the Spartans on a 57-yard drive deep into Boilermaker territory however, the drive would stall and the ensuing  FG attempt was blocked by Purdue’s Lorenzo Neal. The MSU defense made up for the lapse by forcing a Purdue three and out and on the following drive the Spartans extended their lead to 16-6 on a 34-yard field goal.

But the Boilermakers wouldn’t roll over. Purdue answered the Spartan scoring drive with one of their own that spanned 74 yards and ended with a rushing TD by Terry Wright with just seconds remaining in the third to make it 16-13.

In the fourth, the Spartans were able to stop a promising Boilermaker drive with an interception by Tyriq Thompson, but a penalty following the play pushed MSU back deep in their own territory. While the Spartans were able to burn some clock on the ensuing drive, penalties prevented the MSU offense from getting into a rhythm.

When Purdue got the ball back they were able to immediately put themselves back into scoring position on a 39-yard pass to Isaac Zico. But as it had done throughout the game the MSU defense once again stood tall forcing another three and out and blocking a potential game-tying field goal try.

MSU put an exclamation point on the game with a shuffle pass to wide receiver Jalen Nailor, who then reversed field for a 48-yard TD run to put the Spartans up 23-13.  Defensive back Matt Morrissey would seal the victory with a late-game interception.

“We came out with the idea that we were going to attack...had momentum and kept momentum.” Mark Dantonio said. “ (On defense) Doing a great job coaching we’ve got great leaders...we’ve always had great defense here.”

When asked about the plan for Lombardi going forward Dantonio said: “We will see what happens.”

Purdue finished the game with 62 rushing yards and quarterback David Blough went 29-49 for 277 yards and three INTs. The Boilermaker defense had one sack and a forced fumble.

For MSU the offense, things finally clicked. Lombardi finished 26-46 for 318 yards and two TDs while the Spartan rushing attack went for 108 yards on the ground with running back LJ Scott leading the way with 52 yards. The defense remained consistent, forcing three INTs and a sack. 

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