East Lansing, MI – Le'Veon Bell rushed for a pair of touchdowns, including the go-ahead score midway through the fourth quarter and No. 13 Michigan State held off No. 24 Boise State, 17-13, on Friday at Spartan Stadium.
The Spartans trailed by three for the entire second half, but a short punt from Trevor Harman early in the fourth gave Michigan State excellent field position at their own 44-yard line.
Andrew Maxwell then moved the Spartans down the field before hitting Dion Sims for 18 yards to put Michigan State inside the Boise State 10-yard line.
Bell then capped the 9-play, 56-yard drive, as he bounced around the right side for a five-yard touchdown scamper to give Michigan State a decisive advantage.
Bell finished with a career-high 210 yards on 44 carries and two scores, while also hauling in six passes for 55 yards for the Spartans (1-0), who won for the 12th time in their last 14 season openers.
"That is the most I have ever had in my collegiate career," Bell said of his 210-yard performance. "It's a great accomplishment for me but I've still got things to work on and get better at."
Maxwell struggled in his first start in place of Kirk Cousins, who was taken in the fourth-round of the 2012 NFL Draft after leading the Spartans to an 11-3 mark a season ago.
Maxwell completed 22-of-38 passes for 248 yards and three interceptions, while Sims finished with seven catches for 65 yards.
Boise State (0-1) also had a first-timer under center, as Joe Southwick made his first career start after Kellen Moore finished his college career last season.
Southwick completed less than half of his passes, going 15-of-31 for 169 yards and an interception for Boise State, which had just six returning starters from a team that went 12-1 last season.
"I think Michigan State has a great defense, there's no hiding that," Southwick admitted. "They did a great job all night up front, taking care of the run, putting pressure. Hats off to them, they did a great job. The whole season is about getting better from start to finish."
Boise State had a final charge after Bell's score, as a pass interference call moved them to midfield, but Southwick tossed back-to-back incompletions before an eight-yard run forced the Broncos into a 4th-and-2.
Southwick's pass into a crowd was tipped away, giving possession back to the Spartans, who turned to Bell to help them churn out the final six-plus minutes of the contest.
Bell was up to the task, carrying to ball nine times to move the Spartans down to the four-yard line, before they went into victory formation and back-to- back kneels by Maxwell sealed the victory.
"The offensive line in the huddle, they are ready to run the ball," Bell said of the final drive. "That is something the linemen love doing, that's something I love doing of course. We just want to get over the hump and keep moving forward."
Earlier in the game, Michigan State drove methodically down the field on its first drive, relying heavily on Bell, who carried the ball eight times for 38 yards, including a one-yard plunge to give the Spartans a 7-0 edge.
Jamar Taylor came up with an interception on Michigan State's next drive, but the Broncos would settle for a 23-yard field goal from Michael Frisina.
Michigan State picked up a first down on a 4th-and-1 from their own 36-yard line to keep their ensuing drive alive, but the offense stalled late and Dan Conroy nailed a 50-yard field goal to restore the Spartans' seven-point edge.
After RJ Williamson picked off Southwick on a circus catch deep in Michigan State territory, Boise State responded with a big play of its own on defense, as a tipped screen pass ended up in the hands of Jeremy Ioane, who returned it 44 yards for a touchdown to knot the game at 10-10.
The Bronco's next possession started in Spartan territory and they made their way down to the five-yard line after a 40-yard catch from Matt Miller, but they would settle for a 19-yard field goal from Frisina to take a 13-10 lead.
The teams then exchanged turnovers late in the second stanza to send the Broncos into the locker room clinging to a 13-10 edge.
Conroy missed a 43-yard field on Michigan State's opening drive of the second half and the Spartans coughed the ball up in Boise State territory on their next possession to send them into the fourth still trailing by three.
It was the first ever meeting between these two teams ... It was the fourth straight season that Boise State opened against a ranked opponent ... Boise State coach Chris Petersen had been victorious in each of his previous six season openers ... The Spartans hadn't taken on a ranked opponent in a season opener since 1998 when they lost to Colorado State.