Michigan St. tramples Penguins
Cunningham caught nine passes for 130 yards and a TD
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- B.J. Cunningham caught nine passes for 130 yards and a touchdown, moving into a tie for first on Michigan State's career receptions list in the No. 17 Spartans' 28-6 victory against Youngstown State on Friday night.
Kirk Cousins threw for 222 yards for Michigan State, which tied for the Big Ten title last season but wasn't especially dominant against the Penguins of the Football Championship Subdivision. The Spartans led 14-6 in the third quarter when Cousins threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Cunningham, who held on despite tight coverage in the back of the end zone.
Le'Veon Bell added his second 3-yard touchdown run of the game to make it 28-6 in the fourth.
Cunningham has 148 receptions, equaling Matt Trannon's mark.
Cousins completed 18 of 22 passes, and Edwin Baker ran for 91 yards for Michigan State.
Youngstown State's Kurt Hess threw for 126 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Michigan State took a big step forward last season, winning 11 games and sharing the conference crown with Wisconsin and Ohio State, but the Spartans ended on a sour note, losing 49-7 to Alabama in the Capital One Bowl.
They looked out of sorts at times Friday, committing seven first-half penalties. Michigan State cut down on the infractions in the second half, but there were still some frustrating moments. Dan Conroy missed a 27-yard field goal in the fourth quarter with a horrific shank, kicking the ball low and way to the left.
But the Spartans got the ball back quickly on an interception by Isaiah Lewis, which set up Bell's second touchdown.
Michigan State began the game on a heartwarming note when offensive lineman Arthur Ray, Jr., took the field, four years after being treated for cancer in his left leg. Ray underwent chemotherapy shortly after signing with the Spartans in 2007, and a subsequent infection postponed his comeback until now.
Coach Mark Dantonio indicated earlier this week that Ray wasn't able to practice much because of the stress on his leg, but he was in at left guard for Michigan State's first offensive play of the season. The Spartans called a pass, Ray blocked effectively, then he came out of the game.
The underdog Penguins held their own in the first half, controlling the ball for 19:36 thanks to a 14-8 advantage in first downs. After a scoreless opening quarter, Michigan State finally took the lead on a 6-yard touchdown run by Larry Caper.
The Spartans forced a punt, but Keshawn Martin muffed it, and Youngstown State then drove 62 yards in nine plays. Hess threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jelani Berassa, but the Penguins couldn't tie it. Michigan State's Jerel Worthy blocked the extra point.
Cousins found Cunningham on a deep pass over the middle for a 55-yard gain on the Spartans' next offensive play, and Bell scored on a 3-yard run to make it 14-6.
Youngstown State went 3-8 last season, although the Penguins led at some point in every game they played. They never took the lead against Michigan State.