Spartans starting quarterback Damon Dowdell, a fifth year senior went 22-of-39 for 270 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, but several costly mistakes by Dowdell in this performance could mean he is relegated to backup duty for the rest of his career.
With the Spartans attempting a comeback, down just 9-7, Dowdell, attempting a screen pass under pressure threw the ball right into the hands of defensive end Ryan Neill, who returned it 31 yards in what proved to be the decisive moment in the game.
With the Spartans then down 16-7, the Scarlet Knights added the fourth field goal from Jeremy Ito to take a 19-7 lead.
But Dowdell found tight end Eric Knott wide open down the sidelines on a busted coverage and Knott lumbered in from 54-yards out to bring Michigan State to within 19-14.
The Spartans had one last gasp starting from their own 21-yard line. Dowdell connected with Jason Teague for three straight first downs including a 25 yard play that drove MSU to the Rutgers 29-yard line.
Spartans wide receiver Jerramy Scott broke free in the end zone, but Dowdell over threw the pass and MSU's fourth down attempt to Knott came up short touching off a wild celebrating in New Jersey.
By no means was this loss entirely at the feet of Dowdell. MSU lost several players to cramps in the unseasonably warm temperatures in New Jersey which hovered near the 100 degree mark on the field. MSU was unable to put their best receiver, Matt Trannon(five catches for 77 yards and 1TD), on the field as he cramped severely due to dehydration.
On the other sideline, Rutgers lost only one player to dehydration and cramping. Blame this on what appeared to be an ill-prepared training staff.
Jason Teague's fumble in the first half deep inside MSU territory could have spelled disaster but MSU's freshman bandit SirDarean Adams, blocked Ito's attempt at a field goal.
Michigan State's John L. Smith likely thought that starting a fifth-year senior in a hostile road environment was MSU's best chance for a win. However after the loss, he may feel that he may get better results from freshman Stephen Reaves in the teams home opener against Brian Kelly and the Central Michigan Chippewas.
MSU got a stellar effort from its defense which only allowed Rutgers four field goals on the afternoon. Senior Ronald Stanley (17 tackles) and safety Jason Harmon (10 tackles and 1 interception) played up to their preseason billing with outstanding efforts.
MSU comes home to face Central Michigan at 12:00 noon, next Saturday.