Michigan St. 44, Rutgers 28
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP)—Jeff Smoker threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns and Michigan State returned a kickoff and an interception for scores in a 44-28 win over Rutgers on Saturday.
It was the 1,000th game for Michigan State (2-0), which wore throwback uniforms and placed its original nickname—the Aggies—on the Spartan Stadium scoreboards.
Probably not too many of the previous 999 games featured as many big plays.
There was a 94-yard kickoff return for a TD, a 61-yard interception return for a touchdown and three TD passes of better than 50 yards.
And that was just the first half.
Rutgers (1-1), outscored 224-59 in road games last season, was up to the challenge in the first two quarters with Ryan Hart throwing for 206 yards and two scores.
But Monquiz Wedlow picked off Hart on the first possession of the second half and returned it 29 yards for a 38-21 Michigan State lead.
Hart was ineffective the rest of the game, finishing 14-of-31 for 266 yards, two TDs and two interceptions.
The Scarlet Knights were expected to test Michigan State’s run defense, but they were unable to get anything going on the ground.
Michigan State, which held Western Michigan to 6 yards rushing a week ago, limited Rutgers to minus-2 yards on 36 attempts.
Smoker was 21-of-32 and threw an interception that Brandon Haw returned 61 yards for a score. That play gave Rutgers a 21-14 lead with less than seven minutes to go in the first half.
Michigan State scored the next 30 points.
DeAndra Cobb ran the ensuing kickoff back 94 yards to tie the score at 21.
On the next Spartan possession, Smoker beat a Rutgers blitz by lofting a screen pass to Jaren Hayes who ran it in from 27 yards out. The score put Michigan State ahead 28-21 with three minutes to go in the half. It was the 46th touchdown pass of Smoker’s career, tying the school record held by Bill Burke.
Smoker became the school’s all-time leader in total offense and yards passing in the win over Western Michigan last week.
Hayes received extra playing time because starting running back Tyrell Dortch sprained his right ankle in the second quarter and did not return. Dortch missed all of last season after breaking his right leg in October 2001 at Wisconsin.
Smoker’s 62-yard TD strike to Agim Shabaj tied the game at 14-14 with nine minutes to play in the first half. It was Smoker’s fourth touchdown pass of more than 50 yards this season.
Shabaj caught seven passes for 145 yards.
A moment of silence was observed before the game in memory of former center Brian Ottney, a captain on last year’s Michigan State team. The 23-year-old died Monday in Long Beach, Calif.