PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Jalen Nailor caught touchdown passes of 63, 63 and 65 yards from Payton Thorne and No. 11 Michigan State used its big-play offense to remain unbeaten with a 31-13 victory over Rutgers on Saturday.
Kenneth Walker, who came into the game leading all Football Bowl Subdivision players in rushing, ran for 233 yards, including a school-record 94-yard touchdown. It was the longest offensive play in Michigan State history.
Michigan State (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) is off to its best start since it won its first eight games in 2015, when it reached the College Football Playoff.
Rutgers (3-3) lost its third straight, all against ranked opponents. The Scarlet Knights fell to No. 9 Michigan two weeks ago and No. 7 Ohio State last week.
PISCATAWAY, NJ - OCTOBER 09: Michigan State Spartans wide receiver Jalen Nailor (8) makes a catch and run for his third touchdown during the second quarter of the college football game between the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and the Michigan State Sparta
Nailor finished with five catches for a career-best 221 yards, a stadium record. The old mark of 2007 was set by Larry Fitzgerald of Pittsburgh in 2003.
Thorne finished 16 of 27 for a career-best 339 yards and the three long TDs.
It was the fifth time in FBS history a team has had a 300-yard passer, a 200-yard rusher and a 200-yard receiver in the same game. Michigan finished with 588 yards of total offense to 377 for Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights twice had the lead early. They took a 7-0 edge on a 4-yard pass from Johnny Langan to Aron Cruickshank after their defense thwarted a fake field goal attempt on the opening series.
After the first 63-yard TD to a wide-open Nailor tied the game, Val Ambrosio kicked a 26-yard field goal to put the Scarlet Knights ahead 10-7.
Michigan State needed only five plays to retake the lead, with Nailor making an over-the-shoulder catch at the Rutgers 35 and cutting across the field to score.
A turnover set up Ambroio's second short field goal and cut the lead to one, but Thorne and Nailor hooked up on a flea-flicker on the Spartans' first play of their next drive for a 21-13 lead. Thorne handed off to Walker, who pitched back to the quarterback for the long scoring pass. The three TD receptions tied a school record, last matched by Cody White against Rutgers two years ago.
Walker blew the game open midway through the third quarter with his 94-yard run. He went through a huge hole, broke a couple of tackles in front the Michigan State bench and glided to the end zone. The previous long run for the Spartans was 90 yards by Lynn Chandnois in 1949 against Arizona.
Not only was Rutgers missing leading receiver Bo Melton with a shoulder injury, receivers coach Tiquan Underwood was not at the game because he was in COVID-19 protocol.
Michigan State cost itself points at the end of the first half. A holding penalty nullified a 10-yard TD run by Walker with 47 seconds to go. After a short completion, the Spartans let the clock run and Thorne threw an incompletion to the end zone as time expired. Referee Larry Smith reviewed the videotape and put a second on the clock.
With Matt Coghlin lined up for a 35-yard field goal attempt, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano called two timeouts. Coghlin missed the kick.
Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed in a football game against Army in 2010, and four other athletes were inducted into the Rutgers Hall of Fame during a halftime ceremony.
Michigan State: At Indiana next Saturday.
Rutgers: At Northwestern next Saturday.