The first quarter between the Michigan State Spartans and the Northwestern Wildcats was a slow one, as least offensively. Searching for their tenth win of the season (looking for double digit wins for consecutive seasons), Michigan State was only able to put together a field goal, near the end of the quarter. They were able to put that drive together with a pair of 20 yard rushes from Kirk Cousins and Le'Veon Bell, respectively.
Northwestern immediately answered back to tie it 3-3 at the start of the second quarter, helped mightily by a 17 yard scamper from Venric Mark. Things started turning for Northwestern's favor when Kirk Cousins was intercepted on the third play of the following drive, by Jeravin Matthews. This set Northwestern up at their own 35-yard line, and after rushes of seven, 10 and seven again, Northwestern set up in Michigan State territory.
The Wildcats continued playing the short game, eventually setting up with a 2nd and 3 at the MSU six yard line, but Treyvon Green fumbled the ball, forced by Max Bullough, and it was recovered by Denzel Drone, so the Spartans took over. Le'Veon Bell took advantage of the turnover, running for 15 yards on the first play, and eventually another seven. Kirk Cousins really turned it up though, as the clock neared two minutes, hitting Brian Linthicum for 15 yards and Keshawn Martin for 46 yards, inside the Northwestern 10 yard line. Bell took the first and goal carry, and earned a seven yard touchdown, putting Michigan State up 10-3 following the Dan Conroy extra point.
Northwestern took over with the half nearing its end, but after a Dan Persa sack on second down and a 3rd and 16 coming up, Michigan State called a timeout. After a rush from Northwestern, the Spartans took another timeout, and it proved to be the right move, as Brandon Williams' 34 yard punt went to Keshawn Martin, who returned it 57 yards for a touchdown, putting the Spartans up 17-3.
The half came to an end after a Northwestern rush.