Tyler O’Connor tossed three touchdown passes to pad a 35-0 halftime lead for Michigan State before the Spartans eventually sent Rutgers home with a 49-0 shutout Saturday at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights (2-8, 0-7) dropped their seventh game in a row while Michigan State (3-7, 1-6) snapped a seven-game skid of its own and earned its first Big Ten victory of the season.
“We’re frustrated,” Darius Hamilton told reporters after the game. “Sitting here 2-8, no Big Ten win. But a lot of that has to do with the way we play. That showed a lot today. Got to get better. No use crying over spilled milk."
The Spartans jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter after a pair of touchdown passes from O’Connor and a pick-six interception return by Demetrius Cox on Giovanni Rescigno.
In Rescigno’s third-career start, the sophomore quarterback was 6-for-16 with 40 yards and two interceptions. True freshman Tylin Oden replaced Rescigno in the third quarter after the sophomore’s second interception of the afternoon. Oden took seven rush attempts for 40 yards and was 0-for-2 through the air.
“I just misread (the coverage on the interception),” Rescigno said. “I should’ve handed it off. The free safety came down and jumped the route.”
O’Connor benefited from a balanced run game from the Spartans that spread carries out to eight different players.
Michigan State amassed 277 yards and three touchdowns off 50 attempts. LJ Scott led the attack for the Spartans with a game-high 122 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Madre London added two touchdowns and 52 yards on nine carries.
When it came down to offensive drives, Rutgers was unable to move the ball. Sophomore running back Robert Martin returned to offense after he played on special teams against Indiana last week, but was limited to eight touches for 32 yards.
The two-running back sets didn’t yield any success either. Senior Justin Goodwin received the bulk of the carries, but managed just 2.5 yards per attempt with 30 yards on 12 touches. Sophomore Josh Hicks had seven carries for three yards.
“It starts up front,” said coach Chris Ash. “If we can't run the football, we’re not going to beat anybody by standing in the pocket and throwing the ball all over the field.”
Rutgers returns home at High Point Solutions Stadium next Saturday for a primetime matchup with No. 10 Penn State. The Nittany Lions (8-2, 6-1) take a six-game winning streak into Piscataway while the Scarlet Knights continue to search for their first conference victory.