Final: No. 4 Michigan State 31, Rutgers 24

Key play: Connor Cook converts on third and long on final drive

Michigan State’s best throw and catch of the day moved the chains with the game tied in the final three minutes. R.J. Shelton hauled in a miraculous play to give the Spartans life and eventually set up L.J. Scott’s game-winning score. If the Spartans hadn’t converted, Rutgers would’ve gotten the ball back with decent field position and plenty of time to take the lead. Instead, Cook and Shelton connected on a huge third down to keep Michigan State’s undefeated season alive.

Telling stat: Cook throws for season-high 357 yards

For the first time all season, we got to see Cook lead a comeback effort. The Spartans had only trailed for 68 seconds all year before Saturday. That’s amazing considering how many close games Michigan State has played. Instead of seeing what Cook looks like when he’s protecting a lead, we got to see him take shots downfield and show off the skills that make him a first-round prospect. And Cook had plenty of help. Shelton, Aaron Burbridge and Macgarrett Kings all came up with impressive grabs. It wasn’t Cook’s most accurate day, but he was effective down the stretch in winning time. We all know Cook wins better than any quarterback in the country. Saturday was no different.

Worth noting:

-Leonte Carroo is still a machine

My goodness, where have you been? Well, we know the answer to that, but that had to be what Chris Laviano was thinking. Carroo returned from his three-game suspension with three touchdowns, which marked his second three-touchdown game of the season. Nobody on Michigan State could cover him. He burned Arjen Colqhoun badly for his second score, and the Spartans are probably lucky Rutgers couldn’t get time to throw to him even more. If not for some big-time pressure from the Michigan State line, Carroo could’ve taken over the game even more

Spartans are beyond banged up

It was almost comical. Not that injuries are in any way funny, but it got to the point where you just couldn’t believe it. Jack Allen and Jack Conklin both got banged up in the fourth quarter of this one. Madre London went down and didn’t return and Darian Hicks was also sidelined in the middle of this one. For a team that was already dealing with a mess of injuries, Saturday night certainly didn’t make the Spartans healthier. Oddly enough, Scott didn’t have a single carry until London went down in the third quarter. Scott was in uniform and we didn’t hear about any injury, which leads us to believe he was out for disciplinary reasons. Perhaps that sums it up best. The Spartans are so depleted that they can’t even bench a guy without needing him in the second half.

What it means: MSU gets more close-game experience, Rutgers isn’t a disaster

Credit Rutgers for hanging with the No. 4 team in the country in some grim times. Norries Wilson’s third game as coach might’ve been his best. The Scarlet Knights don’t want a moral victory, but that’s what they got on Saturday night. MSU, on the other hand, doesn’t even look like a team playing down to its competition anymore. It’s hard to fault a team dealing with so many key injuries. At the very least, the nation’s winningest quarterback is getting even more experience in clutch situations. He and the Spartans could definitely find themselves in another tight game in Ann Arbor next week.