Connor Cook threw for two scores, Jeremy Langford added rushing touchdowns of 37 and 20 yards, and the Spartan defense allowed just 319 yards, pacing no. 13 Michigan State to a 30-6 win over Northwestern Saturday. With the victory, the Spartans (10-1, 7-0) officially clinch the Big Ten's Legends Division one season after going 7-6, while the Wildcats (4-7, 0-7) become ineligible for postseason play for the first time since 2006, Pat Fitzgerald's first year as head coach.
"We have a standard of excellence here. We have an expectation to be playing in the postseason. We've obviously been incredibly unsuccessful with that this year," Fitzgerald said after the game. "The year ‘13 is over in a week, and good riddance."
Northwestern jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter, capping a 13-play, 75-yard drive with a Jeff Budzien field goal. Michigan State went on to score 14 unanswered points, striking first with Langford's 20-yard sprint down the left sideline and then completing an 87-yard connection from Cook to Bennie Fowler. Cook's wobbly pass was caught one-handed off the back of Matthew Harris, and Fowler high-stepped past Ibraheim Campbell into the open field; the play was set up after Northwestern elected to punt from Michigan State's 37-yard line.
"We decided to play defense there," Fitzgerald said of the decision. "I know every fan wants me to go for it on fourth down. I understand it, I get the criticism and I respect it."
It was much of the same in the second half. Just one play after a Trevor Siemian screen pass was intercepted by Kurtis Drummond, Langford went untouched for his second touchdown of the afternoon. Playing for an injured Kain Colter, who took a shot to the head in the first quarter, Siemian struggled with two picks and an average of less than six yards per pass attempt. The Cats were held to 80 rushing yards on 26 carries.
Michigan State improves to double-digit wins for the third time in the past four years. Less than two months after being ranked no. 16 and hosting ESPN's College GameDay, Northwestern will fight to win a Big Ten game this season at Illinois next weekend.