Sunday, April 14, 2024

Rogers aids win, breaks records

September 30, 2002
Junior wide receiver Charles Rogers reaches over Northwestern junior safety Mark Roush (35) and sophomore cornerback Marvin Ward (31) for a touchdown during thier game Saturday at Spartan Stadium. Rogers’ touchdown catch broke the NCAA record for consecutive games with a touchdown catch. —

MSU got back on the winning track Saturday with its 39-24 win against Northwestern. But once again, it was junior wide receiver Charles Rogers who stole the show.

The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder only pulled down three receptions for 53 yards - by far his worst outing of the season - but his 21-yard touchdown with 6:10 to play in the first half made history.

The tally marked Rogers’ 14th-straight game with a touchdown, breaking the Big Ten record he shared with Michigan’s Desmond Howard (1990-91).

It also marked his 13th-straight regular-season game with a touchdown, breaking the NCAA record he shared with Marshall’s Randy Moss (1997), Pacific’s Aaron Turner (1990-91) and Howard.

“Just to be among these guys is a great accomplishment for me,” Rogers said. “I’m glad I’m just a part of it.”

And the catch itself - launched by junior quarterback Jeff Smoker - was simply amazing, record or no record.

“Jeff really shouldn’t have thrown the ball to him because it was double coverage and the underneath guy was open,” Spartan head coach Bobby Williams said. “But he threw it anyway.

“It was an unbelievable catch.”

And while the touchdown might help Rogers attempt to become MSU’s first Heisman Trophy winner, Williams said it also will help bring publicity to the entire Spartan squad (3-2 overall, 1-0 Big Ten).

After all, it was as a team that MSU made significant improvements on Saturday.

After shutting down the Wildcats (2-3, 0-1) on the game’s opening possession, the Spartans marched down the field en route to their only first-drive score of the season.

The drive, which lasted three minutes and 47 seconds, consisted of nine plays for 41 yards and ended with a 30-yard field goal by sophomore place-kicker Dave Rayner. Rayner also made good on a 53-yard bomb, breaking his previous career best of 50 yards.

“That’s so important to a game and we haven’t been able to do it,” Smoker said. “We were finally able to do it, and you saw the results. We were able to get things started earlier and put 20 points on the board before halftime.”

Smoker said the field goal helped MSU re-establish confidence and provide momentum. MSU scored two touchdowns and a second field goal, on its remaining four possessions of the first half.

The Wildcats closed the lead to 20-17 with eight minutes left in the third quarter before junior wide receiver Ziehl Kavanaght took a punt 88 yards for a touchdown in a key special teams play, helping the Spartans put the game away.

The Spartans also took advantage of a Wildcats’ fourth-quarter fumble with a 31-yard touchdown strike from Smoker to sophomore tight end Jason Randall to make the score 36-17.

“It’s still a work in progress,” Smoker said. “You can never say you’re satisfied or that you solved everything.”

With Rogers only attributing for three of Smoker’s 15 completions, MSU was able to get six others involved in the passing game.

Spreading the ball around showed a balance within the passing game that’s been missing all season, something Williams said must continue.

The Spartans also re-established the running game, racking up 276 rushing yards. But that victory comes with the knowledge that the Wildcats have the second worst run defense in Division I college football.

Coming into the game, Northwestern allowed its opponents to gain 517 yards of offense, with 317 coming on the ground.

Still, it’s reason for optimism.

Senior tailback Dawan Moss led the charge with 191 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries, while freshman tailback David Richard contributed 78 yards on 18 carries.

But Williams knows the Big Ten season will bring greater challenges to the Spartans.

“This is a step in the right direction,” he said. “We’ve got a long way to go and a lot of good football teams left to play.

“But at least we’ve got something to build on.”

The Spartans will enjoy a short break before returning to practice Thursday, as MSU has this weekend off. The Spartans return to action Oct. 12 against Iowa (4-1, 1-0) in Iowa City.

“That’s two weeks away,” Rogers said. “We’re going to celebrate this one and enjoy the win.

“It’s just a great day to be a Spartan.”

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