Michigan St. 26, W. Michigan 21
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP)—Jeff Smoker returned from a five-game suspension for substance abuse to set a pair of Michigan State career passing records and lead the Spartans to a season-opening 26-21 win over Western Michigan on Saturday.
Smoker flourished in new coach John L. Smith’s spread offense, completing 21 of 34 passes for 324 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
He threw scoring passes of 59, 50, and 21 yards in a game that featured 84 throws and lasted 3 1/2 hours.
Chad Munson went 30-of-50 for 333 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in what also was the Broncos’ season opener.
Munson connected with Greg Jennings on a 12-yard TD pass with 30 seconds remaining in the game, but the outcome already had been decided.
Smith, who was brought in to resurrect a program that stumbled to a 4-8 mark a season ago, did what Duffy Daugherty, Muddy Waters and Nick Saban could not: win his Spartans’ opener.
Smith lost his first game in previous stops at Idaho, Utah State and Louisville.
Smoker, who looked comfortable in running an offense that routinely involved four- and five-receiver sets, surpassed Ed Smith for the Spartans’ total offense record on a 59-yard TD pass to Kyle Brown in the second quarter that put Michigan State ahead 14-7.
He set a new school passing yardage mark in the fourth quarter when his 53-yard completion to Aaron Alexander moved him past Dave Yarema’s previous record of 5,809.
Smoker was kicked off the team last season, but Smith reinstated him with no assurances of regaining the top spot. He eventually won over Smith and was named the starter earlier this month, beating out Damon Dowdell and Drew Stanton.
Tyrell Dortch also made a strong return to the Michigan State lineup, gaining 58 yards on 16 carries nearly two years after breaking his leg at Wisconsin.
Dortch underwent four operations in 16 days in 2001 after breaking his right tibia and fibula while defending a pass in Madison.
He landed awkwardly, and both bones snapped 3 inches above his right ankle. His foot flopped to the right at roughly a 90-degree angle.
Dortch’s counterpart at Western, Phil Reed, gained 54 yards on 14 carries, including a 2-yard scoring run that tied the game at 14 early in the second quarter.
The Spartans went ahead 23-14 when Agim Shabaj caught a pass from Smoker across the middle, sprinted across the field and then down the sideline for a 21-yard score.
Shabaj scored the game’s first TD, a flanker screen from Smoker that went 50 yards.
Michigan State, which did not feature names on the back of the players’ jerseys for the first time since 1980, has won 10 straight games against teams from the Mid-American Conference.