Who will keep chopping? That’s the question that will hang in the air Saturday in Piscataway, New Jersey.
Michigan State has chopped its way to a 5-0 start to the season (2-0 in the Big Ten), and a No. 11 national ranking, embracing a phrase long beloved by Rutgers, creating a peculiar subplot for Saturday’s Big Ten showdown.
Follow along here for live updates from Detroit News contributor Nolan Bianchi.
First half leaders
MSU – Payton Thorne: 11/15, 295 yds., 3 TD
RU – Noah Vedral: 8/16, 105 yds.
MSU – Kenneth Walker: 17 atts., 87 yds.
RU – Noah Vedral: 8 atts., 43 yds.
MSU – Jalen Nailor: 4 recs., 208 yds., 3 TD
RU – Aron Cruickshank: 3 recs., 38 yds., TD
Michigan State has nightmare sequence to end first half, still leads 21-13
Michigan State takes over at its own 27, leading 21-13 with 4:59 to go.
Kenneth Walker rushes for 3, then 10, to set up first-and-10 at the Michigan State 40.
Connor Heyward gets his first touch of the game and goes for 6, as another 9-yard pickup from Walker moves the chains into Rutgers territory.
Walker goes for 13 more, setting up first-and-10 at the Rutgers 32.
There he’s finally stopped for a loss of 4. He gets 5 back on second down to bring up third-and-9: Thorne scrambles, finds Tre Mosley, and the two connect for a 19-yard gain to the Rutgers 12, where he gets out of bounds with 1:01 left in the half.
Walker picks up 2 on first down.
Timeout #2 Michigan State (0:54 2nd)
Walker bounces the next carry outside for a Michigan State touchdown, but it’s called back for holding. It’s now second-and-18 at the 20. Heyward is brought down after a gain of 5.
Michigan State doesn’t use their timeout, lets the clock roll down, and snaps it with about 10 seconds left. The play looks way too long to develop, and Thorne’s throw lands out of bounds as time expires.
Mel Tucker contends that there was a second left on the clock, and it’s now being reviewed.
After review, there was 1 second left on the clock when the ball hit the ground. Lucky break for the Spartans.
Timeout #1 Rutgers (0:01 2nd)
Timeout #2 Rutgers (0:01 2nd
Shiano doesn’t use this third timeout though it looks like he might, and Rutgers blocks the field goal try. What a sequence.
END 2ND: Michigan State 21, Rutgers 13
Rutgers punts quickly after Michigan State breaks game open
Rutgers takes over at the 25 after the Michigan State touchdown.
Noah Vedral misses on first down, completes a 5-yard pass on second down, can’t connect on third down. The Scarlet Knights will punt.
Michigan State 21, Rutgers 13 (3:31 2nd)
Michigan State uses big play again to take 21-13
After Rutgers kicks the ball out of bounds on the kickoff, Michigan State takes over at the 35, leading 14-13 with 6:21 to go in the half.
The flea flicker returns! Payton Thorne goes over the top to Jalen Nailor for another massive touchdown, this one for 65 yards, and that’ll give Nailor 208 yards receiving on four catches for three scores. This is just a preposterous display from this two young fellas.
Michigan State 21, Rutgers 13 (6:10 2nd)
Michigan State fumbles as Rutgers draws within a point
Michigan State takes over at its own 9, leading 14-10 with 8:33 to go in the second.
Harold Joiner rushes for 12 yards, then 2 yards. Payton Thorne tries another deep shot for Jalen Nailor, but this one can’t connect.
The next snap by Michigan State is fumbled, and recovered by Rutgers at the 13 of Michigan State.
Michigan State 14, Rutgers 10 (6:26 2nd)
After a 2-yard run by Isaih Pacheco, Noah Vedral rushes for a yard and then throws incomplete to the end zone. The Scarlet Knights will take the field goal.
Michigan State 14, Rutgers 13 (6:21 2nd)
Michigan State defense forces quick punt
Rutgers takes over at the 25.
Isaih Pacheco rushes for 8 yards, and Noah Vedral comes up firing to Aron Cruickshank for a gain of 15 on the next play.
Vedral misses on his next two throws, then picks up a couple with his feet on third down to end the drive. Adam Korsak’s punt is fair caught at the 9.
Michigan State 14, Rutgers 10 (8:33 2nd)
Nailor does it again, gives Michigan State 14-10 lead
Michigan State takes over at the 13, trailing 10-7.
Jayden Reed takes the first-down carry for 4. Kenneth Walker moves the chains with a 15-yard pickup on second down.
Thorne goes deep to Tre Mosley down the sideline, and while a flag is initially thrown, it’s picked up. Reed hauls in a 5-yard completion to bring up third-and-5.
Thorne goes over the top to Nailor, who somehow avoids going out of bounds, reverses field, and lets Rutgers chase him all the way to the end zone for another touchdown.
Michigan State 14, Rutgers 10 (10:18 2nd)
Rutgers regains lead with field goal
Rutgers takes over at the 20 after the touchback. Game is tied at 7 with 0:44 left in the opening frame.
Noah Vedral fakes a handoff, fakes a pitch, and hits Jovani Haskins for a pickup of 25 to the Rutgers 45.
Aaron Young rushes for 4 yards on the next play, bringing the first quarter to a close.
END 1ST: Michigan State 7, Rutgers 7
An offensive holding penalty on Rutgers will make it second-and-7; Matt Alaimo catches a 9-yard pass. Michigan State’s Jacub Panasiuk is flagged for a late hit on the next play, and it’s a really bad call. Then Michigan State is flagged for roughing the passer, and it’s a good call, but it’ll make it first-and-10 at the 21.
Aaron Young rushes for 8 and 3 yards to move the chains.
Vedral throws it out of bounds on first-and-goal at the 7. Kyle Monangai rushes for a loss of 1. The third-down pass is batted down, and that’ll force a field goal.
It’s good from 26, and Rutgers regains the lead.
Rutgers 10, Michigan State 7 (12:10 2nd)
Michigan State punts from Rutgers territory
Michigan State takes over at the 17 in a 7-7 game with 2:45 to go in the first.
Kenneth Walker rushes for 3 yards on first down. Payton Thorne hits Tre Mosley on second down for a huge gain of 41 yards that’ll give the Spartans first-and-10 at the Rutgers 39.
Thorne hits Tre Mosley for a gain of 4, and Walker picks up 2 yards on his next carry. Thorne’s next pass is batted into the air and goes right to Jalen Nailor, but he drops it.
Michigan State takes a delay of game before fourth down, and they’ll punt.
Baringer’s punt bounces into the end zone.
Michigan State 7, Rutgers 7 (0:51 1st)
Rutgers can’t convert another third-and-long
Rutgers opens at the 27 after a return by Aron Cruickshank.
Isaih Pacheco rushes for 3 yards on first down; Matt Alaimo comes up with a 13-yard reception on second down to move the sticks.
A holding penalty makes it first-and-20, and Johnny Langan, in at quarterback, is sacked, then fires complete for 6. Noah Vedral’s 8-yard run isn’t enough for a first down.
Adam Korsak’s punt is returned 1 yard to the 17.
Michigan State 7, Rutgers 7 (2:22 1st)
Michigan State answers quickly
Michigan State takes over at the 25.
Kenneth Walker rushes for 12 yards on first down.
Payton Thorne throws a bomb to Jalen Nailor on the next play, and nobody is gonna catch him. He’s gone for a 63-yard touchdown pass. What an answer by the Spartans.
Michigan State 7, Rutgers 7 (6:05 1st)
Rutgers survives early third down to take 7-0 lead
It’s Rutgers ball at the 28 after the fake field goal.
Isaih Pacheco rushes for a yard on first down. Simeon Barrow sacks Noah Vedral on second down for a loss of 9, and on third down, Vedral throws a strike to Aron Cruickshank for 19 yards to get exactly enough yardage needed.
Pacheco carries for 2 on first down, and Vedral takes off for a pickup of 9 to the 50-yard-line, where Rutgers will have a new set of downs.
Rutgers stays on the move: Vedral throws to Jovani Haskins for an 11-yard gain, then after a 2-yard run by Vedral, he takes off again for a 33-yard run to the Michigan State 4. That’ll force Michigan State to regroup.
Timeout #1 Michigan State (6:57 1st)
Cruickshank gets it on the next play and scurries into the end zone for a Rutgers touchdown.
Rutgers 7, Michigan State 0 (6:51 1st)
Michigan State has empty opening drive after fake field goal
Michigan State takes over at the 25 after a touchback.
Kenneth Walker busts it outside on first down for a 14-yard gain on first down, and the Spartans are off and running.
Walker is wrapped up for a loss of 3 on the next play. Payton Thorne delivers a strike to Jalen Nailor on second down for a pickup of 17 to the Rutgers 47, first down.
After a 5-yard pickup from Walker, Thorne goes back to him in the passing game for a 13-yard pickup to the 29. An offsides penalty sets up first-and-5.
Walker is stuffed for no gain, then gets to to make it third-and-3. Walker’s attempt to get to the outside is halted by a diving Rutgers defender for a loss of 3.
Michigan State runs a fake field goal, and it does not go well. Bryce Baringer is chased down by the Rutgers defense to force a turnover on downs.
Michigan State 0, Rutgers 0 (10:55 1st)
The Spartans could be looking to redeem themselves, after fumbling and bumbling their way through seven turnovers in a 38-27 loss to Rutgers in last season’s opener, the start of a 2-5 effort in Mel Tucker’s first campaign as Michigan State’s head football coach.
While Tucker has the Spartans rolling, the Scarlet Knights are 3-2, but off to an 0-2 start in Big Ten play. Rutgers gave Michigan all it wanted in a 20-13 loss in Ann Arbor, before it was throttled last week by Ohio State, 52-13.
Michigan State at Rutgers
► Kickoff: Noon Saturday, SHI Stadium, Piscataway, New Jersey
► TV/radio: Big Ten/760
► Line: Michigan State by 4
► Records: No. 11 Michigan State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten), Rutgers (3-2, 0-2)
► Series: Michigan State leads 8-4 (Last time — October 24, 2020: Rutgers 38, (at) Michigan State 27)