EAST LANSING, Mich. — Connor Cook threw three touchdown passes in the first half – including one hauled in by Aaron Burbridge with a spectacular catch in the end zone – and No. 4 Michigan State beat Air Force 35-21 on Saturday.
Cook ended up throwing for 247 yards and four touchdowns, and Burbridge caught eight passes for 156 yards and three TDs. The highlight was Burbridge’s 28-yard scoring reception in the second quarter, when he leaped to make the catch and, as his body stretched parallel to the ground, touched his left foot down in bounds.
The Spartans (3-0) were coming off a big win over Oregon, and Air Force’s option isn’t easy to prepare for, but the Falcons (2-1) never mounted much of an upset threat.
Air Force was penalized six times for 83 yards in the first half, including three chop blocks and a couple defensive penalties on third down that led to second-quarter touchdowns by Michigan State.
Cook opened the scoring with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Josiah Price, and RJ Williamson scored on a 64-yard fumble return to make it 14-0. Air Force then drove 75 yards in 11 plays and scored on Ben Washington’s 1-yard run late in the first quarter, but Burbridge caught a pair of TD passes in the second.
His leaping effort along the side of the end zone was originally ruled incomplete, but the call was overturned after replays showed his left foot came down before his body landed out of bounds.
It was 21-7 after that touchdown, and the Spartans caught a break when Air Force was called for a personal foul near the end of the half on a play when Cook was sacked. Instead of third-and-24, Michigan State had a new set of downs, and Cook immediately threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Burbridge with 28 seconds left in the half.
Burbridge caught a 21-yard scoring pass from Cook early in the third to make it 35-7.
Air Force lost quarterback Nate Romine to a leg injury in its previous game. Karson Roberts attempted only one pass in the first half against Michigan State, but the Falcons found some success through the air in the third quarter.
Roberts threw a 38-yard TD pass to Jalen Robinette, and Air Force drove down the field again before stalling near the Michigan State goal line early in the fourth. On fourth-and-goal from the 3, Robinette was stopped well behind the line of scrimmage.
The Falcons had another chance to cut into the lead later in the fourth, but Roberts was intercepted by Williamson at the Michigan State 8.
Michigan State hosted a service academy for the first time.