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September 2, 2006

Michigan State survives to beat Idaho

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EAST LANSING, Mich. -Drew Stanton threw for 225 yards and a touchdown Saturday to lead Michigan State to a 27-17 win over Idaho and new coach Dennis Erickson.

The game was a reunion for Erickson and Michigan State coach John L. Smith, who coached together with three different programs - including Idaho - in the 1980s.

Smith's Spartans (1-0) survived against Erickson's Vandals (0-1) in the non-conference season opener, largely because of Stanton's mistake-free football. The senior quarterback completed 16 of 25 passes and rushed for 55 yards on eight carries.

Idaho, a member of Western Athletic Conference, cut Michigan State's lead to 24-17 with 9:51 remaining in the fourth quarter. Vandal quarterback Steven Wichman connected with receiver Lee Smith on a 13-yard touchdown pass, capping an 81-yard drive.

Michigan State responded by driving deep into Idaho territory. But the Vandals defense stopped Michigan State's Javon Ringer on fourth-and-1 at the Idaho 25.

That gave Idaho the ball with 5:40 remaining, but the Vandals couldn't generate any offense on their next possession.

Michigan State was nearly able to run out the clock on its final possession, capping a 75-yard drive with a 23-yard field goal by Brett Swenson.

Stanton completed passes to six different Spartans, including a 27-yard touchdown pass to Kerry Reed in the first quarter.

Jayson Bird led Idaho with 88 yards and a TD on 20 carries. Wichman completed 17 of 31 passes for 155 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

Michigan State led 17-3 at halftime.

Erickson is in his second stint as Idaho's coach. He went 32-15 with the Vandals from 1982-85.

Smith served as Erickson's defensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Idaho. They later coached together at Wyoming and Washington State, and they remain close friends.

When Erickson moved to Miami in 1989 - on his way to winning two national championships in six years - Smith returned to Idaho for his first head coaching job, compiling a 53-21 record in six seasons.

Erickson, who most recently coached the San Francisco 49ers in 2003 and 2004, was out of coaching last season. He returned to Idaho in February, replacing Nick Holt, now an assistant at Southern Cal.

Idaho was a successful Division I-AA program when Erickson and Smith first coached there. Now it's a struggling I-A program. The Vandals haven't had a winning season since 1999 and were 11-47 in the last five seasons, including a 2-9 mark last year.

For more coverage of the Michigan State Spartans, check out SpartanMag.com.

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