EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - At first, it looked like a terrific catch that wouldn't count, Aaron Burbridge leaping to haul in Connor Cook's throw along the side of the end zone, but landing out of bounds.
Replays showed Burbridge's left foot touched inbounds as his body stretched parallel to the ground, before any other part of him hit the turf. Touchdown, Michigan State.
''Amazing,'' Cook said. ''To see him go up and reach back, and to still keep his foot inbounds - a circus catch.''
That was the most spectacular of Burbridge's three touchdown receptions Saturday in No. 4 Michigan State's 35-21 win over Air Force. The senior receiver caught eight passes for 156 yards, and Cook threw for 247 yards and four touchdowns.
The Spartans (3-0) were coming off a big win over Oregon, and though Air Force's option isn't easy to prepare for, the Falcons (2-1) never mounted much of an upset threat. Air Force held Michigan State to 77 yards rushing, but the Falcons left Burbridge with too much space, and Cook had little trouble finding him for several big plays.
''We've got to run the ball more effectively and protect the quarterback better, which has not been a problem,'' Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said. ''But they put a lot of guys up there, brought a lot of pressure, so we need to be able to handle those situations.''
Air Force was penalized six times for 83 yards in the first half, including three chop blocks and a couple crucial defensive penalties 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 - including the leaping catch that was originally ruled incomplete but overturned.
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.
''Too many turnovers, too many balls on the ground, we had some mistakes and I had some misreads,'' Roberts said. ''We think we can play with anyone. We were as confident as ever going in.''
Later in the fourth, Roberts was intercepted by Williamson at the Michigan State 8.
It was the first time Michigan State has hosted a service academy.