On Saturday, senior offensive guard Travis Jackson was set to get the same opportunity as a four-year starter. But when Jackson went down with an injury on the first drive of Michigan State’s 45-3 win against Rutgers, the plan shifted.
Instead, the chance that coach Mark Dantonio said “is like finding gold” for an offensive lineman went to former walk-on Connor Kruse.
“In my eyes, it is definitely gold,” Kruse said. “It’s not something we ever get to do. … It probably doesn’t look like gold. We don’t move as fast as other people. I can tell I don’t move as fast other people. For us and all the guys who were so happy to see me run the ball, it is gold, it is something special for us to have.”
The play finally came to fruition in the fourth quarter on the Rutgers 24-yard line, as Kruse lined up as an eligible tackle on the far right of the offensive line. He came around to take the handoff from quarterback Tyler O’Connor and ran for what was credited as a one-yard gain to the Rutgers 20.
He said he did not care about the yard gained – or if he had lost five – he had just one focus on the play.
“Hold on, just hold on,” he said. “If I fumbled it, that would be the worst thing ever. Luckily, I gained zero or one yard that they gave me.”
Admittedly, he said he probably does not get the credit for the yard anywhere but Spartan Stadium.
“No, they wouldn’t have given me a yard anywhere else,” he said. “They would have given me a negative yard. I got lucky here.”
He also became the envy of his fellow offensive linemen. Sophomore offensive tackle Jack Conklin said he was excited for Kruse, but wished he could have gotten the chance to carry the ball.
Junior center Jack Allen said “as an O-lineman, that gets you pumped.”
“That might be one of the highlights of the year watching Connor Kruse and his 6.0 40 run that thing,” Allen said.
On top of that, Allen said it meant a lot to see the walk-on turned starter be the one to carry the ball.
“That guy has earned everything that he has gotten here,” Allen said. “He has not had anything handed to him. He deserved something that like that and he got it.”