EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Javon Ringer stood outside Spartan Stadium, celebrating with Michigan State fans and carrying a red rose.
Ringer and Michigan State will have a chance to play for a piece of the Big Ten title -- and possibly even a Rose Bowl berth -- thanks to Saturday's 21-7 win over Purdue.
The No. 18 Spartans (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten), who are off next week, will rest up for a Nov. 22 showdown at No. 3 Penn State with at least a share of the conference title on the line.
Michigan State's bid for at least a share of the Big Ten crown for the first time since 1990 got a huge boost later Saturday, when Iowa stunned the Nittany Lions 24-23. The Spartans, in fact, took the conference lead, a half-game ahead of Penn State and Ohio State.
"When you shoot for something, talk about something for so long, and all of a sudden it's done, it's a numbing feeling a little bit," said second-year Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio. "The opportunity to play for a Big Ten championship is real."
Ringer, one of 16 Spartans playing their final home game Saturday, got the rose he carried because it was left over from pre-game ceremonies honoring departing seniors. But the flower also had taken on a symbolic, bowl-oriented meaning after he scored two touchdowns and had 121 yards on 32 carries to lead Michigan State, which was aided by a dominating defense.
"Two years ago there's no way anybody would have thought we'd be right here," Ringer said. "But it's amazing what you can do when you have the faith and just keep pushing."
Purdue (3-7, 1-5) was officially eliminated from bowl contention in coach Joe Tiller's final season. The Boilermakers have suffered with injuries, particularly along the offensive line, dating back to spring practice.
"We got off to a flying stop last spring and we never recovered on the offensive line," Tiller said.
Ringer entered the game ranked second in the nation at 142.7 yards per game. He is the second-leading career rusher in Michigan State history, trailing only Lorenzo White.
Ringer gave Michigan State a 7-0 lead with a fourth-down, 1-yard touchdown run on the Spartans' opening possession. His 1-yard TD run early in the second half gave Michigan State a 21-0 lead.
With just 9 seconds left in the first half, Michigan State defensive back Johnny Adams stepped in front of a Justin Siller pass and returned the interception 40 yards to give the Spartans a 14-0 halftime lead.
"He read it and picked it," said Dantonio, who called it the play of the game.
Purdue, hampered by turnovers all season, never recovered.
Siller started his second consecutive game in place of injured senior Curtis Painter. Siller was shaken up in the middle of the third quarter and replaced by Chris Bennett, but returned to the lineup later in the quarter despite suffering a hyperextended knee and a bruised sternum.
Painter hurt his throwing shoulder Oct. 25 against Minnesota and didn't play Saturday.
"I made a comment to our coaches at halftime that this is a day you want to have two quarterbacks," Tiller said. "We wish we would have had a choice today, but we didn't."
The Boilermakers couldn't generate much offense, particularly when it mattered most.
Purdue avoided a shutout by scoring with less than 1 minute to play on Siller's 1-yard touchdown run.
"We wanted that shutout," said Michigan State linebacker Ryan Allison, who along with linebacker Greg Jones led the team with 12 tackles.
Purdue generated only 191 yards of total offense. Siller was 13-of-30 for 83 yards. Kory Sheets had 93 rushing yards on 22 carries.
"We had trouble early on getting our running game and our passing game started," Siller said. "We started out real slow and that hurt us throughout the game."
Michigan State had 300 yards of offense. Quarterback Brian Hoyer was 10-of-22 for 154 yards with two interceptions.
Michigan State gave the Boilermakers chances to stay in the game by missing out on several scoring opportunities, particularly in the first half. The Spartans also committed four turnovers.
But the Boilermakers, who have a 19-game winless streak against ranked teams, couldn't capitalize.
Purdue had won seven of the last nine meetings in the series, including two straight in East Lansing, before Saturday's loss.