EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Le'Veon Bell spent the last couple seasons splitting carries in the Michigan State backfield.
Now he's unquestionably the team's top running threat — and, boy, has that changed his workload.
Bell ran for a career-high 210 yards on 44 carries Friday night, helping No. 13 Michigan State outlast No. 24 Boise State 17-13. The junior's second touchdown of the night — a 5-yard run with 8:12 remaining — helped the Spartans avoid an upset on a night Bell outgained the Broncos all by himself.
"The offensive line in the huddle, they were ready to run the ball," Bell said. "That is something the linemen love doing, that's something I love doing, of course. We just want to get over the hump and keep moving forward."
After Bell's touchdown put the Spartans ahead, the Broncos drove to the Michigan State 42, but Joe Southwick's pass on fourth-and-2 was broken up.
The Spartans (1-0) then ran off the final 6:32.
Boise State (0-1) was sluggish in its first game after losing standouts Kellen Moore and Doug Martin from last season's explosive offense. The Broncos' only touchdown came on Jeremy Ioane's 43-yard interception return in the second quarter.
"We wanted to come out and play fast and physical and I think we did that," Michigan State linebacker Max Bullough said. "I think that it was a good game to start with and I think we proved ourselves."
Bell became Michigan State's undisputed top running back when Edwin Baker left to enter the NFL draft after last season. His 44 carries Friday more than doubled his previous career high of 20, and he also set career marks with six receptions for 55 yards.
"A number of times he made something out of nothing," Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said. "You can't underestimate — 44 touches, and not fumbling the ball, and not coming close to fumbling it. He had some huge plays out there."
The Spartans outgained Boise State 461 yards to 206 but turned the ball over four times.
The Broncos had won six straight against BCS-conference teams.
"We've got to do better in the red zone and we've got to be able to run the ball better," Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. "If we do those two things, we'll be OK on offense."
Michigan State leaned on Bell, especially after new starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell threw three first-half interceptions. Maxwell finished 22 of 38 for 248 yards.
Southwick, replacing Moore at quarterback, went 15 of 31 for 169 yards with an interception.
Bell started Michigan State's go-ahead drive with a 7-yard run and later caught a pass for 11 yards. He even blocked a pass rusher to allow Maxwell to find Dion Sims for an 18-yard pass on third down that put the ball at the Boise State 7.
Two plays later, the Spartans had the lead.
On fourth-and-2 in Michigan State territory, Boise State's D.J. Harper appeared to have an easy first down on a pitchout, but officials blew the play dead for a Michigan State timeout.
Southwick then attempted a pass that was defended well by Darqueze Dennard.
Boise State looked overmatched at the start. After a quick three-and-out, the Broncos punted and let Michigan State drive 60 yards in 12 plays for a 7-0 lead on Bell's 1-yard touchdown run.
The Spartans never really took control, though. Maxwell completed his first four passes, but his slant attempt was dropped by Tony Lippett right into the arms of Boise State's Jamar Taylor. The interception led to a field goal, which the Spartans answered when Dan Conroy made a 50-yarder to give Michigan State a 10-3 lead.
In the second quarter, the Broncos went to a couple of their tricks — a flea-flicker for 23 yards and then a wide receiver pass that fell incomplete. They drove to the Michigan State 9-yard line, but Southwick's third-down pass was deflected by Isaiah Lewis and intercepted by fellow defensive back RJ Williamson, who was on his back in the end zone.
The Spartans quickly returned the favor when Maxwell's screen pass bounced off intended receiver Larry Caper right to Ioane, who returned the interception for a touchdown.
Boise State took the lead on Michael Frisina's 19-yard field goal, and the teams traded two more turnovers in the last two minutes of the half — a muffed lateral by the Broncos and another interception by Maxwell deep in Boise State territory.
In the third quarter, the Spartans missed a field goal, lost a fumble and lost 10 yards on a failed reverse on the last play of the period.