Rapid Reaction: Rutgers shines in Greg Schiano's return with win over mistake-prone Spartans
Final Score: Rutgers 38, Michigan State 27
Brief Recap: What a difference a year makes! In a battle of debuts, Rutgers came out firing from the jump in the return of Greg Schiano. The new-look Scarlet Knights marched right down the field on 10 plays for their first touchdown of the 2020 season and never looked back. On the other side of the ball, Michigan State looked downright awful in the first game for new head coach Mel Tucker. The Spartans fumbled on their first two drives and had a turnover in five of their first six drives of the game. That set the tone for an incredibly lackadaisical performance, rife with mental mistakes, miscommunications, and miscues.
Key Player: With all due respect to former Nebraska QB Noah Vedral who was fantastic for Rutgers, running back Isaih Pacheco was the star and clutch player all afternoon for the Scarlet Knights. Pacheco rushed for 61 yards and two touchdowns while compiling 98 total yards of offense. It was Pacheco’s key runs and first-down conversions that kept Rutgers in control all afternoon.
Key Moment: The key moment came in the third quarter when Michigan State made it a one-possession game. It started when Rutgers fumbled a Spartans punt and gave the ball right back to Michigan State. Rocky Lombardi threw a touchdown to make it 28-20 one play later with Rutgers fumbling the ball right back to the Spartans three plays later. On the ensuing drive, the Scarlet Knight defense rose to the occasion and forced a turnover on downs to keep Michigan State off the board. Rutgers would use that possession to kick a field goal with the Spartans unable to mount another scoring threat until it was too late.
Key Stat: 7, the number of turnovers forced by the Scarlet Knights. The game was incredibly sloppy with the Scarlet Knights also turning the ball over three times, but it was the defensive effort of Rutgers – and complete ineptitude of the Michigan State offense – that cemented the victory.
What it means for Rutgers: Well, the Scarlet Knights will finish the season with more conference wins than they had in 2018-19, combined. It is the first B1G win for Rutgers since they took down Maryland in November of 2017. The path ahead for Rutgers is still incredibly tough, but the team played with effort and toughness in the opener, something that fans can appreciate about Schiano-led teams.
What it means for Michigan State: Fans that felt 2018-19 under Mark Dantonio was the lowest of the lows are in for a rude awakening. The Spartans looked overmatched by a faster, hungrier, and more-disciplined Rutgers team that had not won a conference game in nearly three seasons. For a head coach that wanted to prioritize the importance of ball control, the Spartans failed miserably with seven turnovers and countless costly penalties. It is hard to imagine what the rest of this season will look like, especially next week when the Spartans take on Michigan.