EAST LANSING, Mich. -- The 21st-ranked Michigan State Spartans rallied past Central Michigan and then held off a late comeback to beat the Chippewas 31-20 in hard-fought college football action at Spartan Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Central came out of the locker room inspired for the opening kickoff as quarterback Tommy Lazzaro completed 4-of-5 passes before Ryan Tice booted a 40-yard field goal for a quick 3-0 advantage.
The two exchanged possessions and the Chippewas remained in control by that margin at the conclusion of the opener.
The second stanza saw more of the same until Michigan State retaliated with an interception by David Dowell and a 3-yard scoring run by quarterback Brian Lewerke with 10:57 showing on the clock for a 7-3 edge.
The Spartans tacked on more points on a 5-yard TD run by Lewerke at the 2:23 juncture of the second period for a 14-3 lead, followed by a 33-yard Matt Coghlin field goal with just 29 seconds left for a 17-3 count that stood until intermission.
MSU went back to work in the third quarter with touchdowns by Connor Heyward and La'Darius Jefferson for a 31-3 bulge at the final break.
To open the finale, Central Michigan scored on a 10-yard pass from Lazzaro to Julian Hicks to trim the margin to 31-10 at the 13:29 juncture followed by the Chippewas recovering the ensuing onside kick. Tice then added a 40-yard field to slice the gap to 31-13 with 12:08 to go. This time the Spartans were ready for the onside kick and made the recovery.
Central then scored again on a trick play when Tony Poljan caught a 29-yard scoring strike from running back Jonathan Ward at the 6:44 mark to close to within 31-20.
That store stood up until the final gun.
Michigan State improved to 3-1 on the season. Coach Mark Dantonio's charges will return to Big Ten Conference action with their annual Homecoming game against Northwestern next Saturday afternoon at Spartan Stadium.
Central Michigan dipped to 1-4 entering next Saturday's homefield encounter against Mid-American Conference rival Buffalo.