East Lansing, Mich. — QB Payton Thorne threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns and Ben Patton smashed two fourth-quarter field goals to help Michigan State (5-5, 3-4) to a 27-21 victory Saturday over the Scarlet Knights (4-6, 1-6) to keep their playoff hopes alive.
After losing four straight contests, the Spartans have won three of their last four and playing solid football of late.
Throne got the party started early in the first by hitting a wide-open Daniel Barker for a 26-yard touchdown pass, for the first score of the game going up 7-0. Rutgers responded with a methodical 9 play drive of 96 yards highlighted by sophomore running back Kyle Monangai capping it off with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Gavin Wimsatt to Aaron Young to tie the game at 7-7.
The Spartans Payton Thorne orchestrated a few brilliant drives completing numerous passes on key downs, while Jalen Berger finishes off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to take 14-7 lead into the half. The score was set up following a pass interference penalty in the end zone on Avery Young, giving MSU the ball at the Rutgers 2-Yard line.
“It’s a lot more fun when you win,” Thorne said. “Football isn’t all that fun when you’re losing.
“Getting three of the last four is really good, and the one that we dropped (at Michigan) it could have been very different, a couple of plays here and there. I think we’re playing a lot better than we were earlier in the year as a team. We just got to keep rolling.”
Opening possession of the 2nd half displayed a well balance drive with a steady diet of the running of Jalen Berger and pen point precision passing from Payton Throne to Jayden Reed from a 25-yard touchdown, upping the Spartans’ lead to 21-7. Questionable decision to go for it on 4th and 9 inside the 35-yard line, the Spartans turned the ball over on down.
The Scarlet Knights marched down the field in desperation mode, not wanting to let the game get away capitalizing with a 1-yard touchdown purge from Johnny Langan. Keeping the game in striking distance for Rutgers 14-21 at the end of the third.
Rutgers first possession of the 4th quarter, the offense began to lean on Monangai and he responded with multiple carries for positive yardage. The Scarlet Knights drive stalled inside the 30-yard line and the field goal attempt was blocked by Michigan St.
The Spartans’ offensive line exerted their dominance late in the game opening gaping holes for the Spartan’s running backs. Senior kicker Ben Patton nailed a 34-yard field goal to extend the Spartan lead to 24-14 with 6:28 minutes to go in the game.
“That was huge,” Michigan State coach Mel Tucker said. “We talked about that all week, about being able to get some push inside on their guards. We had been close in some other games this year, even recently.”
Gavin Wimsatt was able to get the Scarlet Knights within six points with a 31-yard touchdown pass to Shameen Jones on a fourth and 29 play with 47 seconds left. The Scarlet Knights attempted an onside kick, but it was fielded by the Spartans who ran out the clock.
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said his team’s 14 penalties for 108 yards were a major factor in dashing any hopes of a victory.
“We played well enough in areas to win today, but that certainly wasn’t one of them,” he said of the penalties.
Despite totaling 283 yards of offense and allowing Rutgers to cross midfield only twice in the first half, the Spartans could not pull away from the Scarlet Knights.
Michigan St. Spartans Record 4-5 Conference record 2-4
Head Coach Mel Tucker
Passing leader: Payton Throne 1,896 yds 14 Tds 9 Ints
Rushing leader: Jalen Berger 104 Att. 465 Yds 4.5 Avg 5 Tds
Receiving leader: Keon Coleman 38 Rec 574 Yds 15.1 avg. 6 Tds
Sacks leader: Jacoby Windmon 39 Tackles 5.5 Sacks 1 Int
Tackles leader: Cal Haladay 80 Tackles 1.5 Sacks
Rutgers Scarlet Knights Record 4-5 Conference record 1-5
Head Coach Greg Schiano
Passing leader: Evan Simon 740 Yds 4 Tds 6 Ints
Rushing leader Samuel Brown V 85 Att 369 Yds 4.3 Avg 3 Tds
Receiving Leader: Aaron Cruickshank 34 Rec 317 Yds 9.3 Avg 2 Tds
Rutgers: Hosts Penn State on Nov. 19 and visits Maryland on Nov. 26 in the regular season finale.
Michigan State: Hosts Indiana on Nov. 19 and closes the regular season at Penn State on Nov. 26.