EAST LANSING, Mich. — There’s a nickname among the Michigan State quarterbacks for senior tight end Josiah Price, one they feel accurately sums up his craftiness and unpredictability.
“We call him ‘The Magician’ in our room because sometimes he fools us as well (as our opponents),” fellow senior, QB Tyler O’Connor, said. “He runs maybe some routes that we don’t draw up exactly. But he gets open. He’s great to have on our end.”
Price becomes a potent threat in the red zone. He came into the game Saturday against Rutgers with 19 career touchdowns, the most by a tight end in program history. But had never grabbed two in one game — until Saturday, that is, as the Spartans (3-7, 1-6 Big Ten) rolled to a 49-0 blowout of the Scarlet Knights (2-8, 0-7 Big Ten).
On the Spartans’ second drive of the game, Price gave a little shove to the defender and found enough room to get a foot down inbounds, giving him his first touchdown of the day.
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Eighteen seconds of game action later, safety Demetrious Cox jumped a route and coasted into the end zone untouched with a pick-six. It was eerily similar, Price noted, to Michigan State’s game against Northwestern on Oct 15. The Spartans had opened that game with a Price touchdown and a pick-six just seconds later for a 14-0 lead. That game didn’t go so well as Northwestern won, 54-40.
Price said that didn’t cross his mind until after the game.
“I just literally connected the dots right here that it was the exact same,” he said. “You can’t focus on that (during a game). You can’t look back in the past. You’ve got to live in the present. And whenever we get a little bit of momentum, we just keep trying to ride it and do great things.”
Given all that’s gone wrong for Michigan State this season, it would be easy to draw connections to the many previous mistakes and mishaps this season. Instead, the Spartans kept focused and built on the lead.
Price again found space in the back of the end zone. Maybe it was a predetermined route. Maybe not. Whatever the case, O’Connor easily hit him to make it 28-0.
“There’s a lot of freedom in our offense in a lot of things,” Price said of his route running. “There’s a lot of option routes for me. I’ll just try to create and get some separation. That’s something I try to pride myself on here, being able to beat the man across from me.”
Price had three grabs for just 13 yards, but two catches put him in the end zone and in rare company. With 21 career TD grabs, he vaulted himself past Spartans legends Andre Rison and Plaxico Burress into sole possession of fourth place all-time.
More important, it gave Michigan State not just a win, but a massive win. Price has been with the program for five years, and the Spartans have won by at least 49 points (Eastern Michigan, 2014) and shut out an opponent (Purdue, 2013) just one other time during that span.
That’s why you could find Price on the sideline making sure to tell O’Connor, running back LJ Scott and others, “This is fun!”
When things haven’t gone your way, it’s important to remind yourself to enjoy it when it does. That’s why, for The Magician, personal accolades are taking a backseat. For now.
“I think I’ll look back and appreciate that a lot more and, I guess, look into the meaning of all that when I’m done playing here,” Price said. “But right now I’m focused on getting wins each and every week and not really focused on individual statistics. But it is really special. Every time I can get in the end zone, it’s a lifelong memory and something I’m going to cherish for the rest of my life.”