It had been 11 years to the day since Michigan State last came away victorious from Camp Randall Stadium, but the Spartans used stifling defense and just enough offense to pull off an 16-13 upset overtime victory over No. 25 Wisconsin on Saturday in a Big Ten game.
After holding the Badgers (6-3, 3-2) to a field goal on its first possession of overtime, Andrew Maxwell connected with Bennie Fowler in the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown to snap Wisconsin's 21-game home winning streak.
"I thought, obviously, we played very well defensively pretty much throughout the entire football game," Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio said. "The offense made plays down the stretch when we had to make it."
Maxwell's heroics began late in the fourth quarter. With Michigan State down seven with just over six minutes to go, he led the Spartans (5-4, 2-3) on an impressive 12-play, 75-yard drive to tie the score with 1:08 to go. Maxwell threw for 63 yards and rushed for seven more yards before pitching the ball to Le'Veon Bell for a 5-yard touchdown run.
"I've got a very confident young man, and that guy was going to step up and go," Dantonio said of Maxwell. "I thought he did a great job scrambling. I'm really excited for him and for his family and for our Spartan nation."
The teams headed to overtime after Wisconsin's attempt to reach field-goal range was stopped with a sack that drove the Badgers back to their own 29-yard line.
The Badgers came in as one of the hottest rushing teams in the country, averaging 356 yards on the ground in their past two games, but Michigan State showed why it has the Big Ten's best rushing defense by limiting Wisconsin to 19 yards.
"Obviously you have to give credit to Michigan State," Wisconsin head coach Brett Bielema said. "We knew it would be a tough task, but we were just never able to get anything going on the ground, which for us, when that happens, it's never going to be a good game."
The Badgers defense was also a brick wall, holding Bell, the country's third-leading rusher, to 77 yards on the ground and forcing Michigan State to go to the air time and again. Maxwell found limited success in the first two quarters, except on the last drive of the half, finishing with 216 yards and two touchdowns.
"We played really well defensively; did a heck of a job until the final few minutes there," Bielema said. "We kept putting our defense back out there trying to play a field position game."
Wisconsin's offense was unable to get anything going after its first scoring drive in the opening quarter. The futility only increased when freshman quarterback Joel Stave left the game with a shoulder injury after being sacked on the first play from scrimmage in the second half.
"The majority of (Wisconsin's) running game comes from their great tailbacks, from Montee Ball to James White and from Melvin Gordon," Dantonio said. "Coach Pat Narduzzi and his staff did a great job, and as a defensive coach, I take great pride in that."
The offensive play-calling remained the same after Danny O'Brien replaced the injured Stave, but the results did not. Stave completed nine of 11 passes for 127 yards while O'Brien went 5-11 for 44 yards.
"I was on the headset prior to Stave's injury so I knew the stuff we would be going to, and we did that, we just left a few plays out there," O'Brien noted. "You have to score touchdowns in the red zone and not field goals."
The Badgers' only scoring drive of the second half came off a fumble recovery at the Spartans' 18-yard line. Wisconsin ran three plays for minus-2 yards, including a holding penalty that wiped out a touchdown run, and settled for a 39-yard field goal by Kyle French.
Montee Ball led Wisconsin with 46 yards rushing and tight end Jacob Pederson caught three passes for 65 yards and a touchdown to lead all receivers.
NOTES: Wisconsin didn't have a 100-yard rusher for the first time since Sept. 29 when Ball rushed for 90 yards against Nebraska … Bell passed the 1,000-yard rushing mark in a season for the first time in his career … After forcing only three turnovers in its first five games, Wisconsin has forced six in its last four, including one Saturday.