The shock value for Smith may come in the way his team performed, but the Spartans created enough plays to hold off a hungry Vandals team 27-17. Among those plays, five in particular were key in State's ability to keep this Idaho team at bay.
5. Dennis Erickson's decision to decline penalty - With less than nine minutes remaining in the contest, MSU was hit with a holding transgression, and could have been pushed back to their 12-yard line. Instead of placing the Spartans into a 2nd and 18 situation, Idaho head man Dennis Erickson elected to decline the penalty. Facing 3rd-and-8 from his own 22, Stanton scrambled 17 yards in picking up a crucial first down for the Spartans.
Leading 24-17 at the time, Stanton was able to take off a total of four minutes from the clock during this key fourth quarter drive. When Michigan State forced the Vandals into a three-and-out situation on the very next drive, the game was virtually over.
4. Stanton's Bootleg Pass to Scott – After Idaho had closed the Spartans' lead to 17-10 late in the third, Stanton utilized his mobility to keep a crucial drive alive. On 1st and 10 from his own 25, Stanton scrambled to his right, and then to his left, throwing the ball across his body to Javon Ringer near the goal line. The 23-yard pickup allowed Caulcrick to punch it in from two yards out, giving the Spartans a 24-10 lead. Stanton finished the game 16-for-25 with 225 yards passing, while gaining 55 yards on the ground.
3. Swenson's 35-yard field goal – It may be difficult to imagine a short field goal claiming importance in the season's first game. Ask a Spartan fan about the MSU kicking game of a year ago, though, and their face will crinkle up like Styrofoam in a bonfire. Getting that initial kick out of the way was big for many reasons, but for a program that saw it's kicking game whimper to a 5-for-16 ratio last season, it was especially critical. The successful try wasn't lost on the crowd either, acknowledging the freshman's effort with applause, and a collective sigh of relief. The confidence granted early on allowed Swenson to hit two-of-three field goals in the game.
2.Wiley's Breakup of Wichman Pass to Komar – After the Spartans took the first lead of the game, the Vandals responded in kind with an impressive drive of their own. Facing 3rd-and-10 from the Michigan State 32, Steven Wichman dropped back to pass, finding receiver Max Komar inside the Spartans' 20. Otis Wiley was there to put a nauseating hit on the freshman wideout, effectively stalling a drive that may have led to the tying score. The Vandals were forced to settle for a 49-yard field goal from Tino Amancio, and a 7-3 deficit at the end of the first quarter.
1. Jehuu Caulcrick's Consecutive Runs - Michigan State forced Idaho to punt on its' first possession, but the result of said punt may have caused them to wish they hadn't. Stanley Franks downed the football at the Spartans' 3-yard live, trapping MSU deep inside their own territory.
Consecutive runs by Caulcrick of seven yards and 13 yards, however, not only ignited the Spartan crowd, but also granted MSU an element of breathing space in which to work the offense. Drew Stanton connected with Kerry Reed later in the drive for a 27-yard scoring strike, giving MSU an early 7-0 advantage with left in the first.