The Cougars (3-3) outgained the Spartans (2-3) 398 to 206 in total yards. The BYU defense held Michigan State to its lowest output since 187 against No. 13 Nebraska in 2011.
The rushing attack churned up 260 yards on the ground, the fourth time this season with 200-plus rushing yards.
After being down 7-3 at the half, BYU scored touchdowns on its first four possessions of the second half and held the Spartans to one late score in the fourth quarter.
"You know our guys kept fighting through and second half was ours," BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said. "I think I made the statement before, we could win this game at the line of scrimmage and I thought our guys did a great job on the offensive line, defensive line and so it was a great win and I'm proud of the guys and looking forward celebrating this one and getting on to the next one."
Taysom Hill completed 18 of 27 passes for 138 yards and one touchdown along with rushing 47 yards and one touchdown. Jamaal Williams tallied 163 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the win. It was his fourth game of 160-plus rushing yards this season.
In BYU’s first offensive possession of the game, the team was facing 4th and 6. After deciding to go for it, Hill found Jonah Trinnaman, but he was stopped 2 yards short.
Michigan State marched down the field on its first possession. Draining the clock, the Spartans scored on an 8-yard rush with 4:10 left in the first quarter to take the early 7-0 lead. They would not score again until 4:59 remained in the game.
The Cougars reached the blue zone to start the second quarter, but the Spartan defense made the stop on 4th and 1. BYU responded with tough defense of its own, holding Michigan State to punt on their second quarter drives.
To end the first half, the Cougars had the ball to try to get on the board. After Hill rushed 11 yards to convert on third down, Rhett Almond kicked a 35-yard field goal to make it 7-3 heading into the break.
After Michigan State’s opening offensive drive that tallied 72 yards, the BYU defense held the Spartans just 33 yards the rest of the half.
To start off the second half, Tautu recorded two tackles in a row, including a sack, to force the Spartans to punt.
In BYU’s ensuing possession, the offense drained 7:29 from the clock as it methodically moved down the field. Facing third down, Hill rushed 3 yards to convert. He ran the ball four times on the drive, including one for 12 yards. He was also 4 for 4 passing on the drive. Colby Pearson caught a 4-yard pass from Hill for the Cougars’ first touchdown. BYU took the 10-7 lead with 4:52 left in the third quarter.
Travis Tuiloma came up with a big sack in the Spartans’ next possession to force a punt.
Squally Canada boosted the Cougars’ drive with two lengthy runs in a row for 14 and 9 yards. On 4th and 1, Hill found Quin Ficklin rolling out from being an extra blocker for a gain of 2 yards and the first down. Hill then found an opening and rushed 12 yards into the end zone to push the lead to 17-7 with 12:43 to play.
Following a fourth down conversion by Michigan State, Michael Davis picked off backup quarterback Damion Terry. Davis returned it for 40 yards to put the offense in a good position with 9:29 on the clock.
Rushing got the job done for the Cougar offense again. Canada put BYU in position with a 21-yard gain. Williams finished off the drive, carrying the ball 8 yards for another touchdown. The Cougars’ lead extended to 24-7 with eight minutes to play.
Michigan State was able to score after allowing 24-unanswered points from BYU. The Spartans capped off a 75-yard drive with a 1-yard rush to make it 24-14 with 4:59 on the clock.
After a 62-yard rush by Williams to get into the blue zone, Hill handed it off to Williams again for a 1-yard rush for his second touchdown on the day. With 1:59 to play, BYU was up 31-14, which would hold as the final score.
BYU returns home next week for the homecoming matchup against Mississippi State at 8:15 p.m. MDT. The game will be broadcast on ESPN along with the radio broadcast on KSL 1160 AM/102. FM, BYU Radio – Sirius XM 143 and the Cougar IMG Sports Network.