Opponent: Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Date: Nov. 11, 2016
Location: Spartan Stadium (East Lansing, Michigan)
Final Score: 49-0, Michigan State
All-time Matchup Record: Michigan State leads 9-4
In a turbulence-filled 2022 season for Michigan State’s program, Mel Tucker and company picked up maybe their most impressive victory against No. 16 Illinois in Champaign this past Saturday.
The Spartans defeated the Fighting Illini 23-15, keeping the team alive in contention for a bowl game heading into the final three weeks of the year. For a squad missing eight players due to suspension, MSU showed a different level of effort to pull out this win against the Big Ten West’s leader.
The defensive unit has been highly criticized for its play throughout the season, and in a game where the Spartans were missing some key playmakers, the defense may have had its best performance. The team finished with three sacks and nine tackles for loss, as Illinois was really never able to find its footing following an early first quarter touchdown.
Linebacker standout Cal Haladay was stout all day, totaling nine tackles including 3.5 tackles for loss, on his way to Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors. Cornerback Ameer Speed led the team in tackles with 12. A strong performance like this with their backs against the wall should give the players on the defensive unit some much-needed confidence heading into the home stretch of the season.
Michigan State now heads back home to Spartan Stadium where the Spartans will face a struggling Rutgers (also 4-5) team that played a solid first half at home last week versus Michigan before unraveling in the second half. It should be hard-fought matchup, as the winner would likely have a much better opportunity at postseason play.
Now, let’s go back to the 2016 matchup between the schools, where the Spartans routed Rutgers to claim their first victory in conference play in a down season.
2016 Game Recap
There weren’t too many good memories from the infamous 2016 campaign, as coming into this game it had been two months since the Spartans had sniffed a victory. MSU would destroy Rutgers by a final score of 49-0 in a battle to climb from last place in the Big Ten East.
Michigan State busted the game wide open in the first half, as quarterback Tyler O’Connor threw three touchdown passes and running back L.J. Scott ran for 122 yards and a score, while fellow running back Madre London had two touchdowns. Defensive back Demetrious Cox also returned an interception for a touchdown.
Rutgers never made it further than the Michigan State 27-yard line in the game, and on that drive, the Scarlet Knights were forced to punt from the 30-yard line. The Spartans drove 92 yards the other way and took a 28-0 lead on a four-yard touchdown pass from O’Connor to tight end Josiah Price.
There’s nothing the Spartans could have done to make up for the dreadful losing streak that seemed never ending in 2016, but this was about as definitive of a victory as possible. The Spartans out-gained Rutgers 440-149 — and did it without maybe their best defensive player in Malik McDowell .