A season’s worth of frustration had Michigan State seeing red.
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights never stood a chance Saturday afternoon. And the Spartans finally rediscovered that winning feeling for the first time in nearly two months.
MSU ended a seven-game losing streak, it’s longest in 34 years, and picked up its first Big Ten win of the season with a 49-0 victory over Rutgers at Spartan Stadium.
The Spartans (3-7, 1-6 Big Ten) held Rutgers (2-8, 0-7) to149 total yards of offense and earned their first shutout since defeating Purdue 14-0 on Oct. 19, 2013. It is the fourth time MSU’s defense did not allow a point in coach Mark Dantonio’s 10 seasons.
And the Spartans did it without star junior Malik McDowell, who did not dress after hurting his ankle and exacerbating a rib injury last week at Illinois. MSU also played without defensive end Evan Jones, linebacker Jon Reschke, cornerback Vayante Copeland, cornerback Tyson Smith and defensive end Auston Robertson.
Tyler O’Connor threw for three touchdowns and completed 10 of 15 passes for 141 yards. Sophomore LJ Scott ran 20 times for 122 yards and a score as the Spartans gained 440 yards of offense, 277 of them on the ground.
Before most of the strong number of late-arriving fans found their seats, MSU seized complete control in the game’s first 10 minutes and took a 35-0 lead by halftime.
Scott helped march the Spartans 58 yards to their first score, running five times on the eight-play drive for 46 yards. O’Connor hit Josiah Price in the back of the end zone on third-and-goal for a 2-yard touchdown to get them on the board with 8:21 left in the first quarter.
Two plays later, Rutgers quarterback Giovanni Rescigno telegraphed a pass to his right side, and safety Demetrious Cox read his eyes and jumped the route. MSU’s senior captain returned the interception 30 yards for a touchdown, just 18 seconds after the first score.
The Spartans forced a three-and-out on defense and needed two plays on their next possession. O’Connor froze the Scarlet Knights’ defense with a play-action fake and lofted a pass over the shoulder of Trishton Jackson on the left side. The freshman receiver kept his balance and raced for a 50-yard touchdown, carrying three Rutgers defenders on his back the final 5 yards into the end zone.
O’Connor and Gerald Holmes drove the Spartans 92 yards to their next score midway through the second quarter, with the junior running back opening the drive with a 25-yard burst and O’Connor finishing it with a 4-yard score to Price on a rollout pass to his left. It was Price’s 21st career touchdown, fourth-most in MSU history, and the fifth-year senior tight end’s first multitouchdown game.
Another three-and-out, and Scott took over again. The sophomore running back, benched a week earlier after a fumble at Illinois, carried eight times for 45 more yards, finishing with a 1-yard TD run with 1:02 left before intermission.
The Spartans held Rutgers to 2.8 yards per play in the opening half, outgaining the Scarlet Knights 284-79. Scott had 103 yards on 16 first-half carries and O’Connor was 9-for-4 for 113 yards with his three TD passes.
Madre London’s 2-yard touchdown run made it 42-0 midway through the third quarter, closing another time-consuming drive in which the Spartans ran over, through and around Rutgers defenders. London did it again on MSU’s next possession, finishing with a 6-yard touchdown.
The Spartans host Ohio State next week (noon/ABC, ESPN or ESPN2).