Chance at victory slipped away late
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Vernon Adams threw deep down the left sideline, and for a moment, it looked as if Oregon might steal this game with a dramatic late rally.
Instead, the pass sailed too long for Byron Marshall, who had beaten his defender.
"Wide open receivers. I have to be better than that. I have to make those throws," Adams said. "It was a chance to win the game. That could have changed everything if I would have put it right on him."
Adams and the seventh-ranked Ducks fell just short at the end, losing 31-28 to fifth-ranked Michigan State on Saturday night in college football's marquee game of the week. Connor Cook threw for two touchdowns for the Spartans, who stopped the Ducks four times on fourth down.
The Spartans (2-0) led for most of the second half, and it was 31-21 before Adams threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Marshall with 3:25 remaining. After a Michigan State punt, the Ducks (1-1) drove to the Spartans 33 before Adams overthrew Marshall.
The Spartans then sacked Adams for a loss of 10, and his pass on fourth-and-16 was incomplete.
"I watch those 'Fast & Furious' movies sometimes and that's what that reminded me of," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "Up and down."
LJ Scott ran for two touchdowns for Michigan State, and Aaron Burbridge caught eight passes for 101 yards and a touchdown.
It was the first time two teams in the AP top 10 met at Spartan Stadium since 1966, when No. 2 Michigan State and No. 1 Notre Dame played to a 10-10 tie. Cook threw for 192 yards and Scott ran for 76. Madre London added 103 yards rushing for the Spartans.
"It's a long season," Oregon's Bralon Addison said. "The teams that played in the national championship had one loss. We can't let this affect us."
It was tied at 14 after Addison returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter, but Michigan State took the lead again on Scott's 6-yard touchdown run. A 38-yard scoring run by Scott made it 31-21 with 10:51 remaining.
Adams, whose health was a concern heading into the game, nearly rallied the Ducks. His scoring pass to Marshall marked the 70th consecutive game Oregon had thrown a TD pass, breaking a record the Ducks had been sharing. Texas Tech had a streak of 69 games from 2006-2011.
But Michigan State held on at the end, avenging one of its two losses from 2014. The Spartans lost only to Oregon and Ohio State, the two teams who played for the national title.
Oregon drove 75 yards in 13 plays on the game's first possession Saturday, taking the lead on a 2-yard touchdown run by Royce Freeman. The Spartans answered with an even quicker TD. London broke free for a 62-yard run on Michigan State's first offensive play, and Cook threw a 12-yard scoring pass to Josiah Price.
What looked like an offensive showcase in the making quickly simmered down. Michigan State's Michael Geiger missed a 28-yard field goal attempt later in the first quarter, and Adams threw an interception.
Michigan State took the lead on Cook's 17-yard touchdown pass to Burbridge early in the second quarter, and although Oregon drove all the way to the 1-yard line, the Spartans held, stopping the Ducks on fourth down.
Adams improvised impressively later in the second, scrambling in third down and throwing with his left hand to an open Addison for 25 yards. But his next pass was intercepted.
"They're really good," Adams said. "I've got to take care of the ball — no interceptions, no fumbles."
Adams had tape on his right index finger after the game, but he said it didn't bother him.