But John L. Smith called his "Aggies" over to the sidelines for a mass huddle. When State returned to the field, they proceeded to score 23 unanswered points to put the game on ice. "Three crucial mistakes gave them 21 points," said Coach Smtih. "We have to be more disciplined. We can't afford to let our eyes wander when we've got a back coming out the backfield looking for the ball. We've got to be more disciplined to do what we're doing."
Immediately stealing back the momentum from the Knights, DeAndra Cobb, who returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a MSU touchdown. "When I saw the hole, I didn't see any white shirts, so that was a good thing," said Cobb. "It turned around the game, When I saw the hole, I knew if I hit it, I had a great chance to go."
MSU continued to live by the big play, provided primarily by quarterback Jeff Smoker and wide receiver Agim Shabaj. With Shabaj as his primary target, Smoker threw for 351 yards and three touchdown to overcome the one interception.
The story of the season thus far is the emergence of sophomore Agim Shabaj as the big play threat MSU didn't think they had. Shabaj caught seven passes for 145 yards, including one leaping circus catch of an overthrown ball by Smoker. Shabaj also took a short pass on the near sidelines and blew past the Rutgers secondary 62-yards for a score.
"It feels good, we got the win and now we've got to come out and get ready for La. Tech," said the sophomore wideout. When asked if feels he has emerged as the prime MSU threat, Shabaj deflected the praise, "Not really, we've got this spread offense and anybody can have a big game at any given time. I guess I was just lucky today."
The Spartans had to play come from behind in this one right from the opening possession of the Knights when quarterback Ryan Hart hit receiver Shawn Tucker, who got behind the MSU secondary for a 65-yard touchdown. MSU struck back when Jaren Hayes scored the first of his two touchdowns, catching a flare pass out of the backfield on mis-direction and outrunning the secondary 52-yards for a MSU score to tie the game.
Hart drove the Scarlet Knights back down the field to re-take the lead hitting Sam Johnson from 7-yards out. That's when Smoker connected with Shabaj on their 62-yard hookup to tie the score, setting the stage for Haw's interception and Cobb's return.
"That definitely a positive sign to know that we were down and we fought to come back. That's something that's going to happen a lot more. You're going to be down in games, tied or down maybe even by one or two touchdowns. You've got to make plays to bring yourself back and we did that today."
After Cobb's touchdown, MSU got the ball back from a stunned Rutgers squad and again connected with Hayes on a 27-yard score to give MSU a seven point lead. Dave Rayner tacked on a 38-yard field goal to up the "Aggie" lead to 31-21 at the half.
The second half was all State. With Rutgers trying to mount a drive a near midfield, "bandit" Monquiz Wedlow read the play and intercepted Hart's pass, racing 29 yards to give MSU the insurmountable 38-21 lead. Two more Dave Rayner field goals up the count to 44-21 before Rutgers scored with just five minutes left to make the final score 44-28.
Impressive was the emergence of Jason Teague late in the game to help kill the clock on the ground. Teague ended up being the Spartans leading ground gainer with 78 yards on 16 carries and could move ahead of Dortch, who ran tenatively and suffered a sprained ankle. Smoker completed passes to seven different receivers with Matt Trannon getting two for 29 yards, Ziehl Kavanaght also catching two for 25, tight end Jason Randall, starting for the injured Eric Knott two for 20 yards while Jerramy Scott and Kyle Brown caught one each.
The Spartans (2-0) now turn their attention to the Bulldogs of Lousiana Tech (1-1). Coach Jack Bicknell bring Tech into Spartan Stadium after a 34-3 win over crosstown rival Louisana-Lafayette. The Bulldogs one loss was to no slouch, they were pasted 49-3 by the #3 ranked Miami Hurricanes.