EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State has left a lot of points on the field this season. It really left a lot of points on the field the last two games against Michigan and Illinois, points that could’ve come in handy in nine- and four-point losses.
The Spartans (3-7, 1-6 Big Ten) left nothing on the field Saturday in a 49-0 win against Rutgers that ended a seven-game losing streak, the longest for the program in 34 years.
Five times Michigan State reached the Rutgers 20-yard line.
Five times Michigan State scored touchdowns.
Senior quarterback Tyler O’Connor tossed a pair of short touchdown passes to senior tight end Josiah Price while running backs LJ Scott scored once and Madre London twice on running plays.
“We ran the ball well. We did a lot of things we wanted to,” O’Connor said. “We had a play-action pass there I think we scored on. I love the calls that coach (Dave) Warner called as well, getting me on the move, getting me outside, some play-action, some outside zone, some power. It was a wide variety of things, and then throwing the ball on the 3-yard line as well. That’s something we haven’t done much of, either. It was a great mix-up and we executed well.”
Rutgers (2-8, 0-7) has many flaws but it has been tough defensively in the red zone. The Scarlet Knights had allowed its opponents to score fewer than 70 percent of the time (27 of 39) when they reached the 20-yard line, with 24 of those scores being touchdowns (62 percent). Michigan State’s defense has allowed 33 scores (94 percent) in 35 red-zone possessions with 25 touchdowns by comparison.
Michigan State ranked 117th in the country in red-zone offense entering the game. The Spartans had scored on just 74.2 percent of their chances, including just 58 percent (18 of 31) touchdowns. The deficiency was particularly glaring the last two games. Michigan State had six red-zone possessions against Michigan but came away empty three times to go with three touchdowns. It settled for three field goals and two touchdowns in seven chances against Illinois.
Out of a possible 91 points from those possessions, Michigan State got just 44.
The only time kicker Michael Geiger got onto the field against Rutgers was for extra-point attempts.
“I don’t know if it’s anything special about the red zone, but I think it’s any time my name is called, I try to pride myself on catching the ball,” Price said. “Today I had three targets and three catches, and they were all third downs for first downs. That was pretty special, and that is what I try to pride myself on. When you get in the red zone, well that has been our emphasis.
“Last week was a rough week in the red zone, so all week we have been emphasizing you have to score touchdowns, we have to score touchdowns. I think we all took that personally. Tyler threw two great balls to me and I was able to get two catches, and that was pretty special.”
Kevin Goheen covers Michigan State for Landof10.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CincyGoGo