Spartans edge Scarlet Knights, 31-24; Drop three spots in AP
The Birthplace of College Football, NJ – The Michigan State Spartans (6-0, 2-0) battled it out with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in an intense, exciting game settled in the final minute of regulation as MSU nudged by RU, 31-24. Spartan QB Connor Cook passed for 357 yards and two TDs completing 23 of 38 passes while the Spartan running game was held to 132 rushing yards. However, credit Connor’s receiving corps with making many key acrobatic and difficult catches. WR Aaron Burbridge led the passing attack with nine receptions for 146 yards. Collegefootballfan.com enjoyed the tailgate with Rutgers fans and Michigan State fans parked nearby who came up from Philadelphia. Award winning BBQ griller (New Paltz, NY BBQ Fest at the Ulster County Fairgrounds this past August) Frank Scarpa served a contingent of about 15 fans with his hand made, oven-baked style pizzas on his grill with a pizza oven hood. All his pizzas were great and enjoyed by everybody. Frank will be serving up his the BBQ fare (pork shoulder, I believe) at our Game 500 celebration on November 21. We all ambled over to High Point Solutions Stadium on the banks of the Old Raritan well-fed and looking forward to the Big Ten clash wondering if our feast was as good as the evening would get. I hoped I would see a better game than the one just attended at West Point. The Spartans wrecked the Knights the previous year, 40-3, and this Knight team sported inexperience in key positions replacing starters not playing due to suspensions and injuries. We were unsure I the Knights could mount a challenge against the AP’s No. 4 seed.
The home team showed some spunk defensively from the start. Rutgers’ special teams blocked a 35-yard FG by PK Michael Geiger and partially blocked a punt in the first period. Before the opening period ended though, Cook completed a 25-yard pass on a fourth and ten to Burbridge who gathered it in to the nine. From the eight, Connor connected with Macgarrett Kings, Jr. who made a diving catch in the end zone for a 7-0 MSU lead. Starting the ensuing series from the 27, RU RB Paul James took the handoff and ran 72 yards to the State six as the quarter ended. Frank said, ” This doesn’t look like a No. 4 team.” I questioned, “Who does?” We would find out on Sunday after the pollsters voted.
One play into the second, QB Chris Laviano (15 for 24 passing, 208 yards, 3 TDs) connected with Leonte Caroo, on his first play back from his assault infraction that was dropped earlier in the week, for a five-yard TD caught at the back of the end zone. Rutgers forced MSU to punt and took over from its 47. Two consecutive completions by Laviano put the Knights at State’s 39. From there, he connected with Caroo again to give the Knights a 14-7 lead. On their following possession, the Spartans settled for Geiger’s 30-yard FG that hit the right upright and caromed through for three. After forcing a Rutgers punt, State started a drive from its own 14-yard line advancing to the RU eight on a 28-yard completion to Burbridge. On first and goal ,Cook’s pass was tipped up and intercepted by CB Kiy Hester on a diving catch to kill the scoring threat. The half ended with the underdog Knights leading the fourth-ranked Spartans, 14-10.
In the third, Michigan State drove 73 yards the first time they had the ball for a one-yard score by Frosh RB LJ Scott to retake the lead. A nine-yard loss and a penalty forced RU to punt from its 18, and MSU started again at the Knights 49. At the 25, Cook threw a pass to DeAnthony Arnett who scored for State again to extend the lead, 24-14. The Knights got their offense clicking next series with RB Josh Hicks carrying the workload on the ground. On a fourth and one at the 29, he moved the chains for a first down. With that, Laviano threw to Caroo who scored taking it over as he hit the left pylon for their third TD pass of the evening. RU trailed by three now heading into the final period.
After taking back a Spartan punt and starting from the five, RB Robert Martin took over as the Rutgers’ running game work horse. On fourth and six at the MSU 44, Laviano connected with wide open Justin Goodwin (Madison, NJ) who took the pass along the left sideline for 18 yards to the visitors’ 26. Martin took the ball down to the nine. On third and goal, Laviano attempted to connect with Caroo for their fourth score, but CB Arjen Coquhon knocked the ball down nearing Caroo’s hands. Rutgers settled for Kyle Federico’s 22-yard FG to knot it at 24-all with 4:21 left in the game. Starting a drive from the 24, LJ Scott ( 9 rushes, 42 yards, 2 TDs) was put to work on the ground while Cook connected with WR RJ Shelton for 26 yard to Rutgers’s 46. On third and one at RU’s 19, Scott carried 16 yards to the three, and with :43 left, he took it over for a 31-24 lead. RU tried to mount a last-minute comeback starting from its 35 after the kickoff landed way out of bounds avoiding a threat by RU’s dangerous returner Janarion Grant. Laviano’s 25-yard completion to Andre Patton got them to the Spartan 40 with 00:24 left. After two incompletes and a 10-yard sack by Malik McDowell, RU lost track of downs and spiked the football on fourth down. Game over with three seconds left. It was intense, exciting, and unexpectedly a fun football game to be at. Rutgers showed up to play and didn’t back down to the fourth-ranked team in the country. The return of Leonte Caroo gave the Knights a welcome weapon to wield to challenge the undefeated Spartans.
Rutgers (2-3, 0-2) next visits the Indiana Hoosiers (4-2, 0-2) who lost their last two games to Ohio State and even more convincingly last weekend to Penn State (29-7). Michigan State travels cross-state to Ann Arbor for a big test against Michigan in The Big House. The Wolverines, now No. 12, have shut out BYU, Maryland, and Northwestern in its last three games. This will be a big showdown at 3:30 EST this Saturday. At the same time, CFF.com will be attending a game of non-epic proportions when we add our final team among the 129 FBS programs when we add the Charlotte 49ers as the 129th visiting the Old Dominion Monarchs in Norfolk, Virginia. Both ConferenceUSA teams are 2-3. ODU is 0-1 in conference play and Charlotte is 0-2. Offensive output and defensive points allowed are comparable. At least it looks to be a competitive game between two of the latest teams to join the FBS. ODU made their debut on our schedule last season with a 49-14 drubbing by Marshall. We hope to see both teams lighting up the scoreboard in this one.