Rutgers-MSU grades: Connor Cook dominant in close Spartans win
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from Michigan State’s 31-24 victory Saturday night over Rutgers:
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
–After being reinstated earlier in the week, Leonte Carroo (+1.8) made short work of re-establishing himself as one of the premier wide receivers in college football. Carroo caught seven of his nine targets against five different Michigan State defenders last night, once again showing his abilities as a downfield receiver. Of his six targets on passes 20-plus yards down the field, Carroo has four touchdowns this season.
–One of the stars of the Rutgers defense is pass-rusher Kemoko Turay (+4.3), who once again showed his prowess as one of the Big Ten’s best defensive players. Turay was too hot to handle for the array of pass protectors the Spartans sent his way, defeating four different blockers for his five pressures, with all but one of his pressures coming to the outside of the defeated pass protector.
–The game ended in embarrassment for Rutgers QB Chris Laviano (-0.1), with a fourth-down spike to end the game, but this was a solid performance until then. With the aid of Carroo, he completed four of his five downfield targets for 117 yards and two touchdowns, while limiting his mistakes on short and intermediate passes. After a solid debut against Norfolk State in Week 1, this was a welcome bounce-back for Laviano after a sequence of three straight starts with an overall grade of -2.5 or worse.
DE Kemoko Turay (+4.3)
LG Dorian Miller (+3.8)
C Derrick Nelson (+2.5)
LT Keith Lumpkin (+2.4)
LB Quentin Gause (+2.1)
Michigan State Spartans
–A dire interception to end the first half raised fears of QB Connor Cook (+6.9) turning in his worst performance of the season, but Cook more than made up for his gaffe before and particularly after his badly forced throw. Cook shredded the Rutgers back seven, completing 13 of his 19 passes aimed 10-plus yards down the field for 278 yards and both of his interceptions. Even a season-high four dropped passes from his receivers couldn’t stop Cook maintaining the Spartans’ unbeaten record.
–While he has soared above the likes of Central Michigan (+4.6) and Western Michigan (+8.0) so far this season, we had yet to see the best of Shilique Calhoun (+2.9) against Power 5 opposition, until last night. Calhoun registered three stops and racked up six pressures (1 sack, 1 hit, 4 hurries) in a productive outing where he proved to be a particular menace on third downs, with his sack and two of his hurries coming on third downs.
–Few teams lost as much experience and quality at linebacker this offseason as the Spartans, but Darien Harris (+2.6) has helped fill that void so far. Building on a solid performance last season Harris earned his highest coverage grade of the season last night courtesy of a pair of passes defensed, while surrendering only two catches on five targets for a solitary yard.
QB Connor Cook (+6.9)
G Benny McGowan (+5.1)
G/C Brian Allen (+5.0)
DE Shilique Calhoun (+2.9)
LB Darien Harris (+2.6)