Well, the Spartans are who we thought they were -- so far. A great defensive team with a great running back -- who might be even better than that.
Le'Veon Bell went off on Boise State on Friday night, outgaining the Broncos entire team, as Michigan State won 17-13 and extended its home win streak to 15.
Bell ran for a career-high 210 yards on 44 carries, while catching six passes for 55 yards -- 50 total touches compared to Boise State's 56 plays. The Michigan State defense shut down Boise State and allowed just 206 total yards. Bell also had two touchdowns in the Spartans' season-opening game for the third consecutive year.
“I was just out there running,” Bell said. “I had no idea how many carries or yards I had, I was just out there running, trying to win the game.”
Bell's previous career high was 141 yards, which he had against Western Michigan two years ago. Against these Broncos of Boise State, the junior could do little wrong -- spinning and making highlights along the way.
**More after the jump**
"He's the perfect back for our style and our brand of football," Andrew Maxwell said. "We want to establish ourselves as the toughest team, and it's great to have a back like him willing to get hit and get yards after contact."
The junior running back led the offensive attack which racked up 461 yards, even with the Maxwell era getting off to a bit of a rough start. The junior quarterback -- making his first career start -- threw for 248 yards on 22-of-38 passing, but had three interceptions and looked a mix of jittery and overzealous, at times.
As he said postgame: "It was not exactly how you dream the first half to go."
Maxwell and tight end Dion Sims connected seven times for 65 yards -- all seven receptions resulting in a first down.
Regardless of turnovers and some struggles, Maxwell is 1-0 as a starting quarterback -- and the defense played a large part in that win. While the offense committed four turnovers, the defense forced two Boise State turnovers, including an interception at the goaline by redshirt freshman R.J. Williamson.
It also forced Boise State to its fewest rushing yards (37) and total yards (206) in the Chris Petersen era. It also held a Boise State team which has averaged more than 40 points per game sicne 1999 to just 13 points and held the Broncos without an offensive touchdown for the first time since 1997.
Boise State managed just six points offensively -- two field goals -- on drives that started at the Michigan State 22-yard line and 30-yard line.
Max Bullough led the Spartans defense with seven tackles, including one and a half for loss.
"We wanted to come out and play fast and physical and I think we did that," Bullough said. "They hit us with a few trick plays and we got that pass interference. Other than that, I think we were solid. I think there were a few communication issues; it was pretty loud out there. I think that it was a good game to start with and I think we proved ourselves."
-- The adversity faced in this game will serve the inexperienced players well later down the road. That fact cannot be understated. It might not have been pretty, but the team stepped up and did enough to win and fought back in the face of a challenge. That says something about the fortitude and leadership on the team as players fill in those roles.
-- Mike Sadler had more tackles than Will Gholston -- one. The punter received a penalty for a late hit on a punt return, something you don't see everyday. Sadler had this to say after the game.
-- Boise State tried attacking Darqueze Dennard plenty and despite a pass interference penalty, he had three pass breakups and was physical in coverage throughout the game. Dennard best be used to seeing a lot of passes coming his way as team shy away from throwing toward Johnny Adams.
-- Where was DeAnthony Arnett? The transfer didn't make an appearance beyond a couple snaps in the game.
-- The Spartans didn't have any sacks, which is a rarity with this Pat Narduzzi defense, but they applied plenty of pressure to Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick and forced him out of the pocket and to make quick throws.
-- Bennie Fowler and Keith Mumphery had a couple of nice catches each, while Tony Lippett had three receptions. Lippett, however, essentially handed an interception to Boise State and also fumbled once.
-- Maxwell showed good mobility and the ability to throw on the run. His arm strength is impressive -- sometimes too much so. Throwing with a little more touch will serve him well and cut down on passes going through his receivers' hands. As far as his first start, he made some very good throws and some very bad ones, but more were physical mistakes than mental mistakes -- correctable in other words. The skills are there and for his first start, it could have been worse. Keep in mind, two of the interceptions were not entirely his fault. Also of note, on Bell's huge third-and-16 run, the final key block came from Maxwell way downfield. Smart, big play.
-- Another note on Maxwell ... his development will be key if this team is to be two-dimensional offensively. Without the ability to move vertically downfield, the Spartans will be in trouble once Big Ten play rolls around.
-- The Spartans controlled the clock, with a time of possesion of 39:19 compared to Boise State's 20:41.
-- Taybor Pepper made his debut at long snapper and had good snaps on both field goal attempts and punts.
-- Tight end Andrew Gleichert had an 8-yard reception after being awarded a scholarship earlier this week.
-- According to ESPN, Michigan State is 9-1 in games decided by seven points or less in the past three seasons.
-- Video boards ... AMAZING. That is all.