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Spartan Football Playback: Michigan State vs. Rutgers (2015)

The last time an undefeated Michigan State team traveled to Rutgers, things got interesting

NCAA FOOTBALL: OCT 10 Michigan State at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Opponent: Rutgers Scarlett Knights

Date: Oct. 10, 2015

Location: SHI Stadium — Piscataway, New Jersey

Final Score: 31-24, Michigan State

All-time Matchup Record: Michigan State leads 8-4

After another convincing win against Western Kentucky on Saturday, Michigan State is now sitting pretty, just outside of a top-10 ranking, and will gear for a Big Ten gauntlet ahead. The Spartans will face the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and Indiana Hoosiers, both on the road, in the next two weeks before an already highly-anticipated in-state matchup versus the Michigan Wolverines on Oct. 30.

Prior to the Scarlett Knights joining the Big Ten, their matchups against Michigan State were fairly even — with Rutgers leading the all-time 3-2 at that point. Since then, it’s been all Spartans. Michigan State has won six of the last seven matchups, with its only loss coming during last year’s COVID-ridden season, in which MSU turned the ball over seven times in the season opener.

Michigan State — along with most other conference teams — has beaten up on Rutgers since the alignment back in 2014, but this was before the prodigal son, head coach Greg Schiano, returned to Piscataway after a brief stint in the NFL. The Scarlett Knights have already shown momentum on the recruiting trail since Schiano was hired and should be poised for a more competitive future.

This week’s playback installment will go back to the Spartans’ 2015 College Football Playoff season where Rutgers almost came away with an upset that would have dramatically changed the college football landscape.

Game Recap

Michigan State entered this matchup as heavy favorites, and with a 5-0 record. The No. 4-ranked Spartans started a bit slow, but found the end zone on the team’s third possession of the game with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Macgarrett Kings from Connor Cook.

Rutgers bounced back on its ensuing possession, as quarterback Chris Laviano found Leonte Carroo for a five-yard touchdown strike to tie the game at 7-7. After a Michigan State punt, Laviano found Carroo again on a 39-yard play action pass to put the Scarlett Knights up 14-10 heading into halftime. To this point of the season, MSU only trailed for 68 total seconds.

The Spartans scored on a six-minute opening drive of the second half, as L.J. Scott punched in a one-yard touchdown to take the lead back. After a Rutgers punt, Michigan State struck again on a DeAnthony Arnett 25-yard pass from Connor Cook to go up 24-14 with 5:46 remaining in the third quarter.

As hope dwindled, Rutgers would bounce back on two-straight great possessions, beginning with a Carroo 28-yard touchdown pass from Laviano to bring the game within a field goal in the last minute of the third quarter. After a Michigan State punt, Rutgers went coast to coast on a lengthy 16-play, 91-yard drive on a Kyle Federico 22-yard field goal to tie the game at 24 with just 4:21 remaining in the game.

As the theme of the season for the Spartans would hold, Michigan State would eventually find a way to persevere and win. On the next possession, MSU would drive 76 yards and Scott hammered in a three-yard score to go up 31-24 with 43 seconds left to play. It wouldn't be the last time this year Scott would score a late touchdown to eventually walk it off. Rutgers would get the ball back, but with five seconds left in the game, Laviano inexplicably spiked the football on fourth down (2:05 mark in the above video), clinching the victory for the Spartans.

Rutgers would turn the ball over on downs in its next possession to end the game.