The winning touchdown came on a 56-yard pass from Quarterback Charlie Baggett to Kirk Gibson in the third quarter. That play also helped Baggett overtake Eric Allen as the Spartans' career offense leader. Allen now has 2,704 yards.
Three other Big Ten teams also won non-conference games, Wisconsin blasting South Dakota 48-7, Minnesota pounding Western Michigan 38-0 and Northwestern edging Northern Illinois 10-3.
The Badgers intercepted five passes in their rout of South Dakota, two by Steve Wagner, who returned one for a touchdown. Billy Marek scored three times for Wisconsin on runs of one, six and four yards.
The Gophers did not get uncranked against Western Michigan until Quarterback Tony Dungy ran for one touchdown and passed for another in the last two minutes of the first half.
By defeating Northern Illinois for its second straight win, Northwestern is off to its best start in 11 years. The winning touchdown came with 1:55 to play on an 18-yard run by Greg Boykin, his sixth straight carry in a 53-yard drive.
Illinois and Indiana did not do as well against the Big Eight, losing 30-20 to Missouri and 45-0 to Nebraska, respectively. The Illini led 20-16 entering the final period thanks to Kurt Steger, who passed and ran for three touchdowns. But Tony Galbreath's second TD of the day climaxed an 83-yard drive and put the Tigers on top to stay. Quarterback Steve Pisarkiewicz added to the margin with a 51-yard pass to Henry Marshall.
Stinging from criticism of their unimpressive job two weeks ago against LSU, Nebraska's offensive linemen volunteered for extra work before the Indiana game. The special-duty "Alpine" sprints up the Memorial Stadium steps led to an easy victory. "They got us in better shape," said Tackle Bob Lingenfelter. "I can't say they won the game, but I'm not as tired this week."
Improved interior blocking helped Nebraska to an offensive advantage of 470 yards to 97 and to scoring drives that ranged from 22 to 92 yards. "This is the big time," Hoosier Coach Lee Corso lamented. "We learned something."
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State both knocked off nationally ranked opponents, the Sooners blitzing Pittsburgh 46-10 and the Cowboys taking Arkansas 20-13. Joe Washington easily won his duel with Tony Dorsett, outgaining him 166 yards (in 23 carries) to 17 (in 12 carries) and outscoring him three touchdowns to one. "He's a supreme back," Panther Coach Johnny Majors said. "In my five years in the Big Eight [at Iowa State] and three years at Pitt we've never faced a runner who devastates you like he does." Pitt Safely Dennis Moorehead, who took part in 27 tackles, said, "Trying to tackle him was a joke. He doesn't have to run on the ground. He can run in the air."
After Arkansas took a 13-7 lead by marching 72 yards with the second-half kickoff, Oklahoma State roared back on the running of Robert Turner and Terry Miller. Both finished with more than 100 yards and scored a touchdown apiece.