November 19, 2011

Spartans Clinch Division Title

EAST LANSING - With a spittoon in hand, and a new Legends Division Championship trophy in tow, Michigan State closed out the 2011 home football season with 55-3 rout of Indiana, Saturday at Spartan Stadium.

With the victory, Michigan State clinches a berth in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game, Dec. 3 in Indianapolis, for the right to go to the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 in Pasadena.

Michigan State (9-2) will play the winner of the Big Ten Leaders Division, which will be determined during next week's Wisconsin-Penn State game.

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio and his three senior captains received the Big Ten Legends Division trophy following Saturday's game.

"This signifies where we wanted to get to, to get where we wanted to go," Dantonio said. "The journey is not done. This is exciting. We still need to finish next week, that's just how we're built. We want to finish the job. "

The Spartans will close out the regular season next week at Northwestern, hoping to get to a 10-win season in consecutive years for the first time.

"It takes a little pressure off of us, I guess, in terms of going to Indy," Dantonio said, of clinching one week early. "But the pressure still exists to finish and to play our best football near the end of the season, and that's what we want to try and do."

With the victory, the Spartans also held onto The Old Brass Spittoon, which is awarded annually to he winner of the Michigan State-Indiana game.

"Today, we came and finished," Dantonio said. "We came out in an emotional game for our seniors, their last day here, playing in this stadium. We were able to do that and play some of our best football. It was not in doubt, and not in doubt because of the way we came out. We weren't flat, we played with a lot of emotion and we made a statement, I think, as a football program."

Kirk Cousins threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns in just over a half and No. 12 Michigan State clinched a berth in the inaugural Big Ten championship game with a 55-3 rout of Indiana on Saturday.

The Spartans entered the game with a one-game lead in the Legends Division over both Nebraska and Michigan, who were playing at the same time in Ann Arbor. When the Wolverines won, it locked up the division for Michigan State (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten) because of its 28-14 win over Michigan on Oct. 15.

Cousins hit B.J. Cunningham for a 7-yard touchdown on Michigan State's first possession of the second half, giving the Spartans a 41-3 lead.

On the next drive, he handed off on the first play, and then was replaced by Andrew Maxwell. Cousins saluted the Spartan logo at midfield before leaving to a large ovation. He finished 16 of 23, and now has 60 career touchdown passes, one short of Jeff Smoker's school record.

Michigan State finished with 470 total yards to 234 for Indiana, and forced the game's only two turnovers.

The Spartans scored on their first two possessions, thanks to a pair of big passes from Cousins to Cunningham. The first, a 37-yarder, led to a 21-yard field goal by Dan Conroy. On the second, the Indiana (1-10, 0-7) defense bit hard on a play-fake, leaving Cunningham alone behind the defense for a 63-yard score.

Michigan State made it 17-0 before the first quarter was over as Cousins hit Keshawn Martin on the sideline. Martin avoided two poor tackles and raced into the end zone for a 47-yard score.

A failed fake punt gave the Hoosiers good field position, but they were only able to turn it into a 22-yard field goal by Mitch Ewald.

Nick Hill, though, returned the ensuing kickoff to the Indiana 24, and Martin took a sweep 19 yards for his second touchdown of the half.

Edwin Bake]'s 10-yard run made it 31-3 late in the second quarter, as the Hoosiers continued to struggle badly on both sides of the ball.

Another Conroy field goal put the Spartans up by 31 at the half.

After Cousins started the second half with the touchdown to Cunningham, Johnny Adams returned an interception 87 yards to give Michigan State a 48-3 lead. Baker's second touchdown provided the final margin.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



 

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