Rutgers knocks off turnover-prone Michigan State
Rutgers’ defense forced seven turnovers and stopped two more Michigan State drives on downs as the Scarlet Knights defeated the host Spartans 38-27 on Saturday afternoon in the season opener for the Big Ten teams in East Lansing, Mich.
Noah Vedral threw for 169 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for another score, and running back Isaih Pacheco scored two touchdowns for the Scarlet Knights, who were coming off a 2-10 season (0-9 Big Ten) in 2019. Rutgers scored only 51 total points in their conference games last season.
The game also marked the return to Rutgers of head coach Greg Schiano, who went 68-67 while guiding the program from 2001 to 2011. The Scarlet Knights, a 10-point underdog in the game, ended a 21-game losing streak in the conference.
Rocky Lombardi went 31 of 44 passing for 319 yards and three touchdowns for Michigan State. He was intercepted twice.
Due mostly to their four first-half turnovers and one lost possession on downs, the Spartans trailed 28-13 at the half, but they closed to within 28-20 with 6:30 left in the third quarter.
The drive was set up by one of Rutgers’ three turnovers, a fumbled punt return forced by the Spartans’ Chase Kline and recovered by Antjuan Simmons at the Scarlet Knights’ 30-yard line.
On Michigan State’s first play, Lombardi found Jalen Nailor down the right sideline for a score.
Rutgers later chewed up more than six minutes on a 14-play drive, extending the lead to 31-20 on Guy Fava’s 44-yard field goal.
Michigan State forced a punt on Rutgers’ next possession, but this time Nailor fumbled, and Rutgers recovered at its own 26. Four plays later, Vedral found Shameen Jones for a 14-yard touchdown toss.
With 1:53 left in the game, Lombardi threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Jayden Reed to pull to within 38-27.
Michigan State finished with 379 total yards, while Rutgers had 276.
In the first quarter, Pacheco (12 yards) and Johnny Langan (1) rushed for touchdowns, before Lombardi connected with Reed for a 50-yard score.
Vedral (24) and Pacheco (3) added rushing touchdowns in the second quarter, while the Spartans managed a pair of field goals (45, 48 yards) from Matt Coghlin.
For Rutgers, Olakunle Fatukasi forced a fumble and made two recoveries, and Avery Young forced two fumbles.
–Field Level Media