Payton Thorne connected with Jalen Nailor on three long touchdown passes in the first half to pace No. 11 Michigan State to a 31-13 win over Rutgers on Saturday in Piscataway, N.J.
Thorne completed 16 of 27 passes for 339 yards, and Nailor had five receptions for 221 yards for the Spartans (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten). Kenneth Walker III rushed for 233 yards on 29 carries. His 94-yard touchdown run in the second half was the longest play from scrimmage in school history.
Michigan State, which became bowl eligible, finished with 588 yards of total offense. The defense held Rutgers to 3.1 yards per carry.
Noah Vedral completed 16 of 31 passes for 208 yards for the Scarlet Knights. Shameen Jones caught seven passes for 84 yards.
Rutgers (3-3, 0-3) was facing its third straight ranked opponents, all in the Big Ten.
Nailor’s huge first half gave Michigan State a 21-13 advantage at intermission.
The Scarlet Knights scored on their first possession. Vedral’s 33-yard run set up Johnny Langan’s 4-yard shovel pass to Aron Cruickshank.
Nailor’s first touchdown came on a 63-yard connection with Thorne in which he beat one-on-one coverage.
Valentino Ambrosio’s 26-yard field goal gave Rutgers a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter.
Nailor’s second 63-yard scoring reception included a nifty move to elude multiple defenders. He caught the ball along the right sideline, then cut toward the middle with 10:18 left in the half.
A Spartans fumble set up Ambrosio’s 29-yard field goal but Michigan State needed just one play from scrimmage to answer that score. This time, Thorne connected with Nailor, who entered the game with 269 receiving yards and three touchdowns, on a 65-yard pass play.
Walker, who entered the week leading the FBS in rushing yards, gave the Spartans some breathing room midway through the third quarter with his 94-yard run. He burst through the middle, eluded a trio of defenders near his own 30-yard line and raced into the end zone.
Matt Coghlin added a 35-yard field goal with about two minutes remaining.
–Field Level Media