Rapid reaction: Burbridge's career day lifts MSU over Air Force
Final: No. 4 Michigan State 35, Air Force 21
Telling stat: Third straight 100-yard game for Aaron Burbridge
If you weren’t impressed with the Michigan State receiver before Saturday, you certainly were by game’s end. His third straight 100-yard game was also his most impressive. Connor Cook connected with Burbridge for a diving 28-yard catch that might’ve been the play of the year for the Spartans so far. Burbridge has never had more than two touchdowns in a season before 2015. He racked up three in Saturday alone. We wondered coming into the season who Cook’s new go-to guy would be. It’s only been three games, but that question has a clear answer.
Key play: RJ Williamson returns for touchdown on scoop and score for 64 yards
What’s the best thing to do to a triple option team? Get a two-possession lead and make them play from behind all afternoon. That’s exactly what the Spartans did. Shane Jones was in temporarily for Riley Bullough, who limped off the field with a minor early injury. Jones forced a fumble and RJ Williamson scooped it up for a 64-yard score. The touchdown was Williamson’s third of his career. The Spartan defense relies on its big-play ability, and that sequence was no different.
-Cook ties career-high in TD passes
After a week in which Cook was all over the national spotlight, the senior was big for the Spartans. His four touchdown passes gave the Spartans all the offense they’d need on Saturday. Maybe an underclassman quarterback would’ve fallen victim to the increased attention. Instead, the nation’s active leader in wins looked like a guy that knew how to respond to a big win. The Spartan running game struggled with just 1.8 yards per carry, but with Cook rolling, that didn’t matter too much.
-Riley Bullough ejected for targeting
Arguably the Big Ten defensive player of the year so far was ejected in the fourth quarter for targeting. Why is that significant? The penalty means that Bullough will be suspended for the first half of Michigan State’s Week 4 game against Central Michigan. Michigan State did recover that fumble when Bullough left in the first half with a leg injury, but it remains to be seen how this team will come out without their leader next week.
What it means: Sparty avoids the trap
If there was any concern about Michigan State coming into Saturday, it was that it would have a slow start following last week’s emotional victory against No. 7 Oregon. The Spartans didn’t do that. If you truly are a top-five team, you look the part, game in, game out. This is an experienced group with a coach who won’t let his team get too full of itself. Michigan State got after it early and took care of business, though the second half had the feel of the Western Michigan game. Mark Dantonio won’t be thrilled, but it’s 3-0 for Sparty.