One of the more intriguing Big Ten matchups that Rutgers gets to play in annually is upon us. The Rutgers - Michigan State series sure has had its memorable moments in case you may have forgotten. The all-time series is 8-4 in favor of the Spartans. From field storming’s to 4th down spikes, to motto stealing, this series has been one of the more exciting BIG matchups for the Scarlet Knights and started before even joining the conference. Lets take a look back at the series history.
This Rutgers season is fondly remembered as the year they took down mighty Penn State at Beaver Stadium. Most forget about the season opener. Behind quarterback Scott Erney’s two passing touchdowns, Rutgers stormed out to a 17-0 lead. The defending Big Ten and Rose Bowl champions mounted a comeback but it was not enough. The Knights, led by Dick Anderson, marched into East Lansing and grinded out a 17-13 upset over 15th ranked Michigan State.
In the second meeting between the two schools, Michigan State was looking for revenge after the embarrassing defeat two years before. They did exactly that with a resounding 34-10 victory at the Meadowlands. This was the first year of the Doug Graber regime, one in which they finished with a 3-8 record.
The following year, Rutgers found itself in another slugfest at Spartan Stadium. With the game on the line, Tom Tarver drove down the field with help from receivers James Guarantano and Chris Brantley. Tarver threw a short pass at the goal line to Antoine Moore to give the Knights a 7 point lead with only 46 seconds left. Rutgers held on to win 14-7 and the magic in East Lansing continued.
3rd year coach Greg Schiano was looking for his first program changing win. The first half was a back and forth affair. Both teams were exchanging touchdowns early when Brandon Haw returned a pick six 60 yards to give Rutgers a 21-14 lead midway through the second quarter. That was it for the Scarlet Knights as Michigan State returned the ensuing kickoff for a score and then proceeded to score 24 unanswered points. Brian Leonard punched in a touchdown during garbage time for a final score of 44-28.
That elusive program changing win finally arrived for Schiano on a beautiful September day in Piscataway. Senior Ryan Neil returned an interception 31 yards for a touchdown to give Rutgers a 16-7 lead. Freshman kicker Jeremy Ito hit 4 of 7 field goals to start his illustrious career. Before a raucous crowd of 42,612, Rutgers grinded out a 19-14 victory. The Rutgers faithful stormed the field to complete the monumental day.
In their first meeting as BIG foes, No. 11 Michigan State dominated from start to finish. Jeremy Langford ran all over the Rutgers defense finishing with 126 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. Led by quarterback Connor Cook, the Michigan State offense jumped out to a 35-0 lead. Rutgers offense was abysmal with Nova finishing 11-26 for 108 yards and 2 interceptions. Michigan State cruised to a 45-3 senior day victory.
With head coach Kyle Flood suspended, Norris Wilson took the reigns for a Rutgers team in disarray. Facing a lot of adversity, the Scarlet Knights played their hearts out against a Michigan State team ranked No. 4 that eventually made the College Football Playoff. Leonte Carroo had the game of his career finishing with 134 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. With the game tied late in the fourth, Connor Cook hit R.J. Shelton with a perfect pass on a 3rd and long to help Michigan State drive down the field and take a 7 point lead with 43 seconds left. Rutgers had one final chance but Chris Laviano spiked the ball on fourth down to ice the game. Michigan State escaped Piscataway with a 31-24 victory.
In a lost season for both teams, Michigan State buried Rutgers from the opening kickoff. They opened up the first quarter with a 21-0 lead. They moved the ball at will on a Rutgers team that was completely overmatched. Madre London scored his second touchdown of the game in the third quarter to make it a 49-0 Michigan State victory.
Michigan State continued its dominance over Rutgers in the season finale. Freshman Jonathan Lewis got the first big reps of his career and threw a 42 yard touchdown pass to Raheem Blackshear to make it a 13-7 game. But Michigan State handled the Knights with ease after the one bright spot. The 16th ranked Spartans cruised to a 40-7 win.
In one of the worst seasons in Rutgers history, these two teams met again in the final game of the season. Michigan native Giovanni Rescigno had a gritty perfomance and gave the Scarlet Knights a 10-7 lead with just under 8 minutes to play. There proved to be too much time on the clock as Cody White ran in a 22 yard touchdown with 4 minutes left to give Michigan State a 14-10 lead. Rescigno led Rutgers down the field one more time but was intercepted on the Michigan State 3 yard line to end the game. Rutgers finished the season 1-11.
In another lost season for both teams, Michigan State came to Piscataway in search of a win to help their bowl chances. It was an ugly game but for the second time in the series, the Spartans were able to keep Rutgers scoreless. In Mark Dantonio’s final game against Rutgers, Michigan State went on to win 27-0.
With both teams starting new eras, the much anticipated BIG opener was one to remember for the Scarlet Knights. Led by Nebraska transfer Noah Vedral, Rutgers took the opening drive all the way down the field to take a 7-0 lead. The rest of the game was an absolute battle with 7 Michigan State turnovers proving to be too costly for the home team. A 14 yard touchdown catch by Shameen Jones put the game out of reach as Rutgers finally got a Big Ten win over Michigan State with a 38-27 victory.
This may not be Rutgers’ biggest rival, but it certainly has been an interesting series with many eventful moments. Michigan State is coming into Piscataway red hot at 5-0 and ranked 11th in the country. Rutgers has a great opportunity to get another huge win against Sparty on Saturday. Will it be like 2004 all over again? We will have to wait and see.