EAST LANSING, Mich. – Report and highlights as the No. 8 Northwestern Wildcats were handed their first defeat of season, losing 29-20 to the Michigan State Spartans in a back and forth contest on Saturday.
Matt Coghlin kicked a tiebreaking 48-yard field goal with 3:35 left to setup the victory for Michigan State. Kalon Gervin returned a fumble in the last play of the game to cap the scoring for the home side.
Northwestern (5-1) entered this game undefeated and were coming off an impressive 17-7 victory over Wisconsin the last time out and started as favorites to beat a Michigan State team that is struggling to find any consistency this season.
The Wildcats were hoping to notch another victory to stay in the College Football Playoff conversation, but that prospect is now likely dashed with the loss.
Northwestern started poorly, as Rocky Lombardi threw two touchdown passes, including a 75-yarder to Jalen Nailor, to help the Spartans (2-3, 2-3) jumped out to a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter.
However, the Wildcats recovered well to take a 20-17 lead Cam Porter rushed into the end zone for a three yard score with 13:54 left to play.
Michigan State then forced three turnovers in the fourth quarter and took advantage of two key field goals by Coghlin to secure only the second win of the season after beating Michigan on Oct. 31.
“We needed this win as a team,” said Lombardi. “It’s good to get out there and beat a really good team like Northwestern because it’s just the kind of confidence boost we needed.
“We know we’re a good team and we know we can beat good teams, but it’s kind of hard to believe yourself until you do it.”
Lombardi finished 11 of 27 on completed passes for 167 yards and a pair of touchdowns with one interception and ran for 65 more yards for the Spartans, who are slated to face No. 4 Ohio State next week.
The Buckeyes had to cancel their game against Illinois on Saturday due a COVID-19 spread in the camp.
Connor Heyward rushed for 96 yards and Nailor took three catches for 99 yards and a touchdown for Michigan State.
“Culture doesn’t change overnight — it just doesn’t,” Spartans winning coach Mel Tucker said. “But wins like today show what we’re capable of.”
Peyton Ramsey was 21 of 43 for 210 yards and threw two interceptions for Northwestern.
The Wildcats will next travel to Minneapolis on Saturday, Dec. 5 to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers.