EAST LANSING, Mich. – Greg Schiano’s return to Rutgers paid immediate dividends. Already, the Scarlet Knights are assured their best Big Ten season in at least three years.
Isaih Pacheco ran for two first-half touchdowns, and Rutgers snapped a 21-game Big Ten losing streak Saturday, beating Michigan State 38-27 in Schiano’s first game back as the Scarlet Knights’ coach.
“They have had some tough stretches, and to see the joy on their faces, how they did it, you know, because we had some downturns in the game,” Schiano said. “I don’t want to see, you know, the woe is me. I want to see tough guys that, you know, just keep going and keep chopping.”
Michigan State has a new coach too, and Mel Tucker's debut was forgettable from the start. The Spartans (0-1) turned the ball over seven times — four in the first half — and never led against a Rutgers team that hadn't won a conference game since Nov. 4, 2017 against Maryland.
“Those last seconds ... I looked up and said, ’Wow, this is real life, you know?'" said Rutgers defensive end Mike Tverdov, a junior who redshirted the year the Scarlet Knights last won in Big Ten play. "So it’s definitely long overdue."
The Scarlet Knights scored 14 points total through their first five Big Ten games last year. It took them 8:03 to reach that mark Saturday. Pacheco strolled in from 12 yards out to cap the game's opening drive, then Michigan State receiver Jayden Reed fumbled the ball away on his team's first offensive play.
Rutgers (1-0) didn't capitalize on that turnover, but the Scarlet Knights quickly forced another. Rocky Lombardi was sacked and fumbled, giving Rutgers the ball at the Michigan State 1. A touchdown run by Johnny Langan made it 14-0.
Reed scored on a 50-yard catch-and-run on fourth down to make it 14-7, but the Spartans weren't done turning the ball over. An interception in Michigan State territory led to a 24-yard touchdown run by Rutgers quarterback Noah Vedral.