WEST LAFAYETTE – Connor Cook threw three touchdown passes, Nick Hill ran for two scores and No. 8 Michigan State got a late interception return for a touchdown to hold off Purdue 45-31 Saturday.
Purdue’s defense just couldn’t stop Michigan State, which amassed 532 total yards. It looked like the Spartans had taken control with a 38-17 lead with two TDs in the third quarter.
Akeem Hunt scored on runs of 52 yards and three yards in the fourth to make it 38-31. But Darien Harris closed out the last chance for Purdue (3-4, 1-1 Big Ten) with a 15-yard interception return for the game-sealing score.
The Spartans (5-1, 2-0) have won four straight overall, including seven straight conference road games. They tied the school record with a sixth straight win in the series.
It was the second week in a row that Michigan State survived a fourth-quarter rally. This one was partly of their own doing after turning the ball over on downs at their own 30 because of a failed fake punt with 7:31 to play.
“There’s no doubt we are getting better in every facet,” said Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell. “It still feels the same, though, for me. We are getting better in terms of coming together, and executing. Everything you look for in progress, we have. But, we need to finish football games.”
Michigan State’s offense certainly did its job.
Cook was his usually efficient self, going 19 of 37 for 238 yards and one interception. Jeremy Langford ran 13 times for 104 yards, his third straight 100-yard game. Hill had nine carries for 72 yards and matched his career high with two scores. And Tony Lippett finished with seven receptions for 138 yards and one score.
The Boilermakers kept poking holes in the Spartans’ vaunted defense and twice got within a touchdown after falling into double-digit deficits.
Austin Appleby finished 24 of 37 for 211 yards with one touchdown and one interception in his second career start, while Hunt ran 12 times for 96 yards and three scores. Danny Anthrop had a career-high nine catches for 133 yards, and the Boilermakers even got the ball back with 2:57 to go and a chance to tie the score.
“We have enough guys and playmakers to do well,” Appleby said. “Our offensive line can go up against anything. We have to come out of the third quarter fast and ready and convert on third downs. This offense is a close bunch and we can be great. If we are more consistent we will be there.”
Harris closed it out with the interception r
Most of the game was all about the offense. The Spartans opened the game with three straight touchdowns: Lippett’s terrific 39-yard over-the-shoulder catch, Hill’s 2-yard run and Josiah Price’s 2-yard TD catch to make it 21-3.
Hunt scored on a 3-yard TD run to make it 21-10, and after a Michigan State field goal, Appleby threw a 9-yard TD pass to make it 24-17 at halftime.
Aaron Burbridge answered with a terrific one-footed toe tap in the back of the end zone for a 13-yard TD midway through the third quarter and Hill followed that with a four-yard run to make it 38-17.