EAST LANSING, Mich. Michigan State shrugged off a sluggish first half, then slugged it out late to avoid an upset Saturday.
Brian Hoyer completed 17 of 29 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Spartans past Bowling Green 28-17 at Spartan Stadium.
Devin Thomas had four catches for 156 yards and a fourth-quarter TD to spark Michigan State (2-0), preventing the Falcons (1-1) from getting their second straight win over a Big Ten team.
"We most definitely had to fight some adversity today," said Thomas, whose kick returns also helped Michigan State keep good field position. "We took care of business and got it done in the second half. But that was tough."
Bowling Green, a member of the Mid-American Conference, beat Minnesota last week. Saturday, they battled the bigger Spartans to a 14-14 halftime tie. But the Falcons faded late, and their pass happy offense was derailed by seven Michigan State sacks.
Bowling Green quarterback Tyler Sheehan completed 32 of 50 passes for 295 yards with a TD and ran for another score. Like Hoyer, he threw two interceptions.
"They brought heat and then they had pretty good coverage," Sheehan said. "They knew where we were going in the second half. We tried to make adjustments. I held on to the ball a couple times and sometimes they got through."
Michigan State grabbed a 21-14 lead early in the third quarter on a 5-yard TD plunge by Jehuu Caulcrick. Thomas made the key play in the drive, fighting off defender Kenny Lewis to haul in a 42-yard pass from Hoyer.
Bowling Green pulled to within 21-17 late in the third quarter on a 31-yard field goal by Sinisa Vrvilo.
But the Falcons' hopes fizzled when Roderick Jenrette intercepted a Sheehan pass early in the fourth quarter, setting up Michigan State inside the Falcons 25. Hoyer connected with Thomas for a 17-yard touchdown to give the Spartans a 28-17 lead.
In the end, Michigan State had too much size and speed for Bowling Green to repeat its upset of Minnesota last week.
"They had Playstation guys," Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon said of the Spartans. "That's what they looked like. My guys are miniature Playstation guys. We played with great heart but that wasn't enough today. When you're playing against people like this you have some matchup problems."
Those matchup problems weren't evident until the second half.
"The first half they had us reeling a little bit I think, but there's always a change when you start against an offense like this," Michigan State first-year coach Mark Dantonio said. "I think the second half we handled them, especially the fourth quarter."
Jonal Saint-Dic had three sacks for Michigan State. Kendell Davis-Clark had 12 tackles.
Bowling Green is 3-5 against Big Ten schools since 2003. The Falcons are the only MAC team to beat two Big Ten opponents in the same season, upsetting Purdue and Northwestern in 2003.
Michigan State is 36-6-2 against current MAC members.
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