Michigan State has struggled offensively all season, and on Saturday against Rutgers, that struggle nearly led to a huge upset.
Instead, the Spartans did just enough to knock off the Scarlet Knights, 14-10, on Senior Day in East Lansing, Mich.
With Rutgers leading 10-7 late in the fourth quarter, junior wide receiver Cody White took a reverse pitch 22 yards for the touchdown, giving Michigan State its first lead of the game.
The Michigan State defense then came up with a stop as cornerback Josiah Scott intercepted his second pass of the game inside the 5-yard line to put the game away for the Spartans (7-5, 5-4 Big Ten).
White and tight end Matt Sokol had touchdowns for Michigan State while tight end Travis Vokolek had a 27-yard touchdown pass for Rutgers in the first quarter. The Scarlet Knights (1-11, 0-9) also got a 34-yard field goal from Justin Davidovicz.
Rutgers struck first by taking advantage of Michigan State’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 from its 34. The Scarlet Knights stuffed Spartans running back Connor Heyward for a loss, and five plays later, Rutgers cashed in as Giovanni Rescigno hit Vokolek with a 27-yard touchdown pass to put the Scarlet Knights up, 7-0, with 6:15 left in the first quarter.
It was the first touchdown Michigan State had allowed in the first quarter since Michigan found the end zone in the seventh game of the season.
Michigan State pulled even with 7:04 to play in the second quarter when Rocky Lombardi connected with Sokol on an 18-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 7. The Spartans took advantage of two Rutgers penalties — a pass interference call and a personal foul — to keep the drive rolling.
The Spartans wasted a chance late in the first half to take the lead after a punt hit Rutgers defensive back Saquan Hampton and was recovered at the Rutgers 13 by Xavier Henderson.
But a personal foul on Michigan State’s Darrell Stewart on the next play pushed the Spartans back and forced a 30-yard field goal attempt. That went bad when the snap was mishandled by holder Brian Lewerke, who threw an interception while scrambling to make something out of the play.
Rutgers took a knee from there and headed to the locker room with the score tied, 7-7.
With neither team moving the ball at all in the second half, Rutgers at least was able to gain an advantage in field position and parlayed that into three points midway through the fourth quarter. After forcing Michigan State to punt from its end zone, the Scarlet Knights began a drive at the MSU 25. They couldn’t get a first down, but Davidovicz hit a 34-yard field goal to put Rutgers ahead 10-7 with 7:52 to play.
Michigan State was able to flip the field after its defense got a big stop late in the fourth quarter and took advantage after an 18-yard punt return set the Spartans up at the Rutgers 35. Four plays later, White got the decisive touchdown with 3:57 to play.
—Field Level Media