Sunday, April 21, 2024

Cats take the bait

Offense lure Wildcats with Rogers

September 30, 2002
Sophomore tight end Jason Randall cheers after catching a touchdown pass during the fourth quarter of the Northwestern game in Spartan Stadium on Saturday. Randall —

Statistically, junior wide receiver Charles Rogers had his least productive game of the season.

But his presence created openings for teammates in both the running and passing attacks in the Spartans’ 39-24 victory over the Wildcats on Saturday at Spartan Stadium.

Head coach Bobby Williams said studying film revealed there would be chances for other players to make plays against Northwestern (2-3 overall, 0-1 Big Ten).

“We looked at the last two ball games and people have been really overplaying Charles,” he said. “All the other guys have so many opportunities to make plays for us.”

Rogers, who had three catches for 53 yards and a touchdown, said getting a victory is more important to him than his individual statistics.

Although Rogers set the Big Ten and NCAA records for consecutive games with at least one touchdown catch, his Spartan record of eight-consecutive games with at least 100 receiving yards ended. It was his 14th-consecutive game overall and his 13th-straight regular-season game with a touchdown catch, respectively.

“I have no problem being one,” he said of being a decoy. “We just took what Northwestern gave us, and Northwestern gave us the run, and we took advantage.”

The Spartans (3-2, 1-0) ran for 276 yards - the second highest total of the season. The last three games, the Spartans failed to crack the 100-yard barrier on the ground.

“I knew that they were really going to be back in coverage,” Williams said. “They had two guys on (Rogers) and their safeties didn’t really get involved in the running game. As a result, we were able to run the football.”

Sophomore tight ends Eric Knott and Jason Randall also reaped the benefits of the Northwestern secondary paying too much attention to Rogers. Knott caused trouble on a variety of underneath routes, catching five passes for 75 yards - both team highs.

Knott said the Spartans are able to have a more balanced passing attack when they’re ahead, which has not been the case the last three games.

“When we’re behind, like we were last week, we really kind of focus on our main players,” he said. “That’s our type of offense, we like to get everybody involved. We showed a little bit of what we could do.”

Randall had three catches for 57 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Jeff Smoker.

On the play, Rogers was the primary receiver and Randall ran a seam route to garner the attention of the safety.

“We have to be alert all the time,” he said. They’re always going to jump toward him.

“Underneath routes - that’s how I got all my catches except for the touchdown. They have to respect it or we’ll beat them over the top.”

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