Defense headlines BWW Bowl in Tempe

The newly named Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium provided for the exact type of game anticipated between the Big 12 and the Big Ten opponents.

Full of defense.

Michigan State defined its defensive way of winning it has relied upon this entire season against Texas Christian in the Spartans 17-16 victory on Saturday night.

The Spartans were used to playing in close, nail biting games all season, as Michigan State lost five of their six games by an average of two points per game.

“It felt great to actually get a win like this,” Michigan State junior running back Le’Vonte Bell said.

Bell and the Michigan State offense were held to a dismal 47 total yards in the first half by the Horned Frogs shutdown defense.

Texas Christian kept the Spartans streak alive of not scoring in the first half in the last three bowl games. However, Michigan State won last year’s bowl game after being down 16-0 to Georgia at the half — including double overtime.

Was déjà vu in order?

The Horned Frogs defense in the first half looked impenetrable, and showed no signs of slowing up into the second half.

The Spartans were lucky the score was only 13-0 after Boykin missed a wide-open receiver, and the Horned Frogs failed to capitalize on a red zone attack.

“Only one person I can blame is myself really,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “No disrespect to Michigan State, but for us, felt like the fumble, did a couple things, (we) were in the red zone (and) had to kick field goals.”

After Bell totaled a mere 38 yards on the ground through the first half, the Spartans continued to put their faith in him.

Bell rushed for over 100 yards in the second half against the Horned Frogs No. 10 run defense that barely gave up 100 yards per game (103.9) all season.

While Bell and the Michigan State offense began to turn it around in the second half, so did the Spartan defense.

Texas Christian redshirt freshman quarterback Trevone Boykin started off 6-for-14 for 136 yards by the end of the first half. But the second half was a whole other story. While Boykin did go 7-for-15 to finish the game, those passes only went for 65 total yards.

The Spartans eliminated the big plays from the Horned Frogs offense, which was something heavily relied upon in Texas Christian’s first half success. It was uncharacteristic of Michigan State to give up big plays all season.

“On the one deep ball, we had it covered, but we misplayed the deep ball,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “Credit TCU and the plays they made. We stopped the run for the most part. I think we made them one-dimensional in that aspect.”

The pressure applied to Boykin throughout the game ended up paying dividends in the long run for the Spartans. Rushed throws and scrambles for short yardage with good containment allowed Michigan State to force the Horned Frogs into much longer third downs. TCU failed to convert a third down in the second half, going 0 for 7.

“You know, what I thought happened in the fourth quarter, I thought Michigan State turned up the heat and I didn’t think we answered it. Plain and simple,” Patterson said.

The defenses created the low scoring, smash-mouth football game everyone expected. For Michigan State, its defense turned it on when it counted — at the end.

 

Reach the reporter at msterrel@asu.edu