If you would’ve asked Mark Dantonio his defense was going to hold Northwestern to fewer than 10 rushing yards, he’d probably be ecstatic. But it was the guy under center, Clayton Thorson, that crushed Michigan State again.

Thorson picked apart the Spartans defense again on Saturday, throwing for 373 yards and three touchdowns while completing 31-of-47 passes as Northwestern posted a 29-19 win in East Lansing. It was the third consecutive victory for the Wildcats over Michigan State. And it was the third time the senior quarterback unleashed on Michigan State.

In the two previous games, Thorson threw for 637 yards and accounted for seven total touchdowns while completing 72 percent of his passes.

Michigan State’s offense didn’t provide much support. While Felton Davis came up big to keep the Spartans alive, it was the same-old, same-old in East Lansing. The offensive line was bad, the running backs couldn’t get into a rhythm and drives ended abruptly.

And because of that, Michigan State’s B1G title and CFB Playoff hopes have been shattered.

Northwestern, on the other hand, is still alive in the West.

Thorson’s big day is precisely what the Wildcats needed from their senior leader. A week removed from his first full game, Thorson looked like his former self, at least as a thrower. It didn’t result in a ton of points, but it was enough to get the job done.

The defense came up big, too.

Northwestern held Michigan State to 96 rushing yards and came up with 11 stops on third down. The Spartans were 0-2 on fourth down attempts.

Now, the Wildcats enter the next two games with some momentum. Matchups against Nebraska and Rutgers are obviously winnable games for Pat Fitzgerald and Co., especially if Thorson is playing this well. Wins in those two games would set up a clash for the B1G West lead on Oct. 27, when Northwestern battles Wisconsin in Evanston.

The Wildcats were never as bad as their 1-3 record indicated. A 2-3 mark doesn’t look much better, but it’s a team still in contention for a division crown.

Especially if Thorson continues to throw the ball this well.