Tight end Matt Sokol didn’t catch a touchdown in his last 23 games as a Spartan, his last coming against Bowling Green on Sept. 2, 2017.
But in the first half of his last game at Spartan Stadium Saturday evening, along with 17 other seniors, the 6-foot-6, 260 pound redshirt senior caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Rocky Lombardi.
“First of all, I was really happy to see no flags on the play,” Sokol said about his second career touchdown. “I have gone through so many ups and downs throughout my career, lot of highs and lots of lows. It just felt great to have one go your way.”
Once Lombardi saw Sokol in on the play, he hoped Sokol could get open, considering he only had 29 career receptions for 320 yards and a touchdown before Saturday night.
“When I saw him in there on that play I was like, ‘Oh God, I hope he's open,’ " said Lombardi, who went 19-of-43 for 173 yards, a touchdown and interception against Rutgers. “So, I threw it to him and he made a good catch, ran a good route. So I was really excited for him and he was excited for himself too.”
Not only did Sokol catch Michigan State's first touchdown, but he also had a key block in White’s game-winning touchdown to give the Spartans (7-5, 5-4 in Big Ten) the 14-10 win over Rutgers (1-11, 0-9) in their regular-season finale.
Sokol said he credits these two plays, along with all of the hard work he’s put in, to his five years in East Lansing.
“I’ve just put so much work into this program in the past five years here, it feels great to be able to make a couple plays like that at our last game at Spartan Stadium,” Sokol said. “Across the board, all of our guys, we come in day-in and day-out, and just work well and are so dedicated to this team and to this program.”
And when Sokol walked down the tunnel at Spartan Stadium for the final time in his career, he had “mixed emotions.”
Because he will never get to play inside the stadium at the university he loves anymore. Something he said all 18 seniors can attest to.
“It's an unbelievable feeling, and I have so much gratitude for Coach (Mark) Dantonio for allowing me and giving me the privilege to play here,” Sokol said. “It changed my life and all our senior's lives for the better, we have all gone through unbelievable experiences here from the highs and lows of college football. All of us have grown so much individually as men and as football players. I love this university and I love this program and I'm very thankful.”
Josiah Scott gets two interceptions, playing in bowl game a possibility?
While Sokol made an impact against Rutgers on offense, cornerback Josiah Scott was an influencer on defense.
The 5-foot-10, 175 pound sophomore had two interceptions: the first off a halfback pass from running back Isaih Pacheco with 6:16 left in the third quarter, and the second, a pass from quarterback Giovanni Rescigno with 1:32 left in the game.
“It is just watching film throughout the week and just knowing their tendencies and what they wanted to do against us in certain situations going through the game,” said Scott. “Whenever they gave a bunch set, they usually run a corner route and as I was dropping back into my zone, I saw the guy run a corner, so I just broke one right when the quarterback was looking at him.”
Scott played in his fourth game this season Saturday after tearing his left meniscus before preseason camp this summer.
Dantonio and Defensive Coordinator Mike Tressel both said they weren’t sure if they wanted to play Scott or not against Rutgers, but are glad they did.
“The decision to play him was simply about — we needed to get this win and he's a great football player and we weren't going to hold any bullets back to finish this regular season with seven wins and obviously since he's been back, he came back at the right time,” Tressel said. “He was 100 percent confident and he was physically 100 percent and he made plays on the football.”
And if he plays in MSU’s unannounced bowl game, he wouldn’t be eligible for a redshirt, which according to a NCAA rule, allows college football players to play in four game during the season and still be redshirted.
Dantonio said the decision on whether Scott will play in the bowl game will be discussed with Scott and his family.
“If he's able to play in five games and he's making an impact in the games I think you allow him to play,” Dantonio said. “But if that's a family decision for him, we'll just sort of listen to his family on that. Two more years is a long time, three more years is a long time for him. Would he go out after two more years? I don't know. So you got to look at all those things.”
And Scott isn’t sure if he wants to stay two more years or three more years.
“(A pro is) getting an extra year to better myself and having that comfortability towards the end of my career,” Scott said. "The con is what happens if I do not do so well next year, does it hurt my chances of going to the NFL."
“We’ll continue to talk about it and what’s the best for me going forward,” Scott said.
Scott can take his time to think about it, as he has about a month until MSU’s bowl game to make a decision.