It was too late by the time Damion Terry replaced struggling Tyler O’Connor in Saturday’s fourth quarter. And it was all over when the junior quarterback got picked off with less than 10 minutes to play.
Final score: BYU 31, Michigan State 14.
And the residual damage, beyond simply a growing quarterback question and the Spartans’ first three-game losing streak under coach Mark Dantonio since 2009, is much more significant.
Defensive lineman Malik McDowell – who was suspended for the first half – had to be helped off the field with 8:40 to play, an apparent left leg injury but returned. Offensive lineman Kodi Kieler left the game late in the first half and did not return. Cornerback Darian Hicks did not play with a hip injury he suffered against Indiana. Linebackers Byron Bullough and Shane Jones also left Saturday with injuries, with Jones returning and Bullough remaining out.
That’s on top of being without three key defensive players – Riley Bullough, Jon Reschke and Raequan Williams.
The Spartans looked crisp on their first drive of the game, using O’Connor’s arm to get the offense moving. The fifth-year senior completed 6 of 8 passes for 46 yards, a lot of quick-hitters to move the chains – including three on third down.
Gerald Holmes also ran seven times for 26 more yards, capping the 13-play drive with a bowling-ball run off right guard for an 8-yard touchdown.
However, MSU couldn’t recover from second-drive penalties that pinned its offense inside its own 20. It sputtered for three quarters before Terry replaced O’Connor finished 7 of 11 for just 58 passing yards with no touchdowns. He was sacked twice.
BYU, meanwhile, got a late first-half field goal to get on the scoreboard, then used three straight scoring drives – two of them gnawing away time from the clock – to take control.
The Cougars (3-3) opened the half with a 13-play, 73-yard march that took 7:29 off the clock. Quarterback Taysom Hill’s 4-yard TD pass to Colby Pearson gave them a 10-7 lead. After MSU went three-and-out, BYU went 70 yards in 13 plays over 5:48. Hill ran around right end for the 12-yard score.
Jamaal Williams scored on runs of 8 and 1 yards to put it away for the Cougars. Williams finished with 163 yards on 30 carries against the depleted MSU defense.
Terry threw an interception on his first drive, but he recovered to lead the Spartans to a scoring drive on their next possession. His 1-yard TD run was the first of his career. The junior finished 6 of 10 for 63 yards passing with the pick, adding 29 rushing yards on eight carries.
MSU hosts Northwestern next Saturday for Homecoming (3:30 p.m.Big Ten Network).