EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Down by three against lowly Rutgers in the last home game of the season, Michigan State pulled out all the stops.
"I think we called every play out there on the sheet," Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said. "Some more than once, but you've got to execute."
Cody White scored on a 22-yard end-around with 3:57 to play, and Michigan State edged the Scarlet Knights 14-10 on Saturday night, handing Rutgers its 11th straight loss. The Spartans never led until White's touchdown, but they held the Scarlet Knights to 217 yards of offense and 10 first downs.
The Spartans (7-5, 5-4 Big Ten) trailed 10-7 when William Przystup's punt pinned Rutgers (1-11, 0-9) back at its own 1-yard line with 5:23 remaining. The Scarlet Knights eventually had to punt, and Michigan State took over at the Rutgers 35.
The Spartans called a trick play at the start of that drive — a backward throwback to quarterback Rocky Lombardi, who then threw downfield. That pass was incomplete, but Lombardi ran for a 13-yard gain on third-and-10, and on the next play, White scored .
The Scarlet Knights drove into Michigan State territory, but Josiah Scott intercepted a pass at the 3-yard line with 1:32 to play.
"I laid it all on the field. We as a team tried our hardest," Rutgers quarterback Giovanni Rescigno said. "The guys gave a tremendous amount of effort and I'm so proud of the guys on the team. We tried to go out with a win. We came up a little short."
After the game, Scarlet Knights athletic director Patrick Hobbs said coach Chris Ash would return next season.
Michigan State was stopped on fourth down at its own 33 in the first quarter, and Rutgers took advantage of the field position. Rescigno threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Travis Vokolek for a 7-0 lead.
The Spartans tied it in the second quarter on an 18-yard scoring strike from Lombardi to Matt Sokol. That was all the scoring for a while.
Michigan State caught a break late in the half when a punt hit Saquan Hampton of the Scarlet Knights, and the Spartans recovered the loose ball at the Rutgers 13. But when Michigan State attempted a field goal, there appeared to be an issue with the hold, and holder Brian Lewerke eventually tried a pass that was intercepted.
Hampton intercepted a pass at the Rutgers 33 in the third quarter, then the Scarlet Knights gave the ball back on the next play. Running back Isaih Pacheco attempted a pass on a trick play, and it was picked off by Scott. Michigan State took over at the Rutgers 34, but the Spartans couldn't get a first down and ended up punting from the 35. It was that kind of day for the offenses.
"It was a battle of field position tonight, and they won it at the end," Ash said. "We had some missed opportunities, some critical penalties that obviously cost us in the game."
In the fourth, Rescigno was ruled short of the marker on a third-down run, then was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, knocking Rutgers back to the Michigan State 40. So the Scarlet Knights punted, but in doing so, they pinned the Spartans back at their own 8. After the Spartans were forced to punt the ball back, Rutgers took over at the Michigan State 25 and finally took the lead on a 34-yard field goal by Justin Davidovicz.
Scott has battled injury problems this year and appeared in just his fourth game. Players can appear in up to four games and still redshirt, so the sophomore's status for Michigan State's bowl will be interesting to watch.
"That's a family decision for him. We'll just sort of listen to his family on that," Dantonio said. "Two more years is a long time. Three more years is a long time for him. Would he go out after two more years? I don't know. So you've got to look at all those things. He's definitely going to graduate, because he came here early."
BOTH SIDES OF THE COIN
Michigan State linebacker Joe Bachie couldn't make heads or tails of what happened on the opening coin toss. The coin apparently plugged into the field on its edge — and had to be tossed again.
"It went up in the air, and about half of it went into the ground, just straight up in the air," Bachie said. "I pointed — I didn't know what was going on. We all kind of laughed out there."
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights fought gamely on the road, but this was their worst record since they also went 1-11 in 2002.
Michigan State: It was about as unimpressive a win as the Spartans could have mustered, but Michigan State did snap a two-game losing streak and scored its first touchdown since Nov. 3. Lombardi started at quarterback in place of Lewerke, who has been dealing with a shoulder injury, and the offense was mostly inept.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights head into the offseason after a winless Big Ten campaign.
Michigan State: The Spartans are headed to a bowl, and maybe by the time they play in it, their injury-plagued offense will be in better shape.
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