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A Horrible Michigan State Mistake On A Punt Set Rutgers Up To Complete An 18-Point Comeback And Win

Michigan State thought it had its first Power 5 win of the season after taking an 18-point lead at Rutgers into the fourth quarter. Instead, Sparty capped off a series of special teams disasters by mishandling a Rutgers kickoff and turning it over, leading directly to Rutgers’ go-ahead touchdown four minutes later.

The Scarlet Knights had looked bad most of the game, turning it over three times in the first half and struggling to move the ball on offense, to put it mildly. Rutgers managed just 31 rushing yards on 13 attempts. To make it worse, rain began to pour down just before the third quarter began.

Michigan State hasn’t beaten anyone since September 9. But Sparty was in full control against Rutgers for the first three quarters, taking a 24-6 lead over the Scarlet Knights with 3:41 to go in the third quarter. New starter Katin Houser completed 17 of his first 26 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns.

That lead held entering the fourth, but Michigan State was preparing to punt on the first play from its own 22-yard line. Then punter Michael O’Shaughnessy fumbled the snap, and Rutgers’ Aaron Young recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown.

That cut Michigan State’s lead to 24-13 with plenty of time. Michigan State proceeded to go three and out while Rutgers mounted a 12-play, 73-yard touchdown drive. Rutgers got the ensuing 2-point conversion and suddenly, Sparty’s lead was just three with 8:30 to go and all of the mojo was with Rutgers.

Michigan State still had the lead and a chance to settle down. But Tyrell Henry didn’t decide to attempt to field the kickoff until it was too late, and he ran straight into Rutgers’ Thomas Amankwaa, who was able to secure the ball instead.

Rutgers tailback Kyle Monangai ran it in from 21 yards out on the next play to give the Scarlet Knights the lead for good, 27-24.

Rutgers’ 5’9 tailback was a big reason for the win as he racked up 107 of his 148 rushing yards in the fourth quarter alone on 13 attempts. Monangai was also responsible for all eight of Rutgers’ rushing first downs in the fourth quarter (the Scarlet Knights had just five rushing first downs up to that point).

And that was never more true than on Rutgers’ final drive, when Monangai got the ball every single play and kept his legs churning and the clock burning, picking up four first downs and ensuring Michigan State wouldn’t get another chance.

Rutgers ran just 44 plays in the first three quarters and 25 in the fourth alone, holding the ball for all but four minutes as it outscored Michigan State 21-0. It was the largest fourth-quarter comeback win for the Scarlet Knights since 2015 when they were down 25 at Indiana. And now, Rutgers is a win away from bowl eligibility.

The fourth-quarter stats were bleak enough for Sparty: outscored 21-0, -20 total yards, and zero first downs. And their next opponent? Michigan.