Tony Lippett throws to tight end Andrew Gleichert in the end zone for a fourth-quarter touchdown as MSU beats Purdue, 14-0, on a rainy Saturday at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing. (Dale G. Young / Detroit News)
East Lansing — Tony Lippett admitted he thought about just running the ball in all on his own.
But hey, he was a quarterback in high school, so part of him was happy with a touchdown pass, too.
That’s what was going through junior wide receiver’s mind on Saturday as his 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Andrew Gleichert sealed a 14-0 victory for Michigan State over Purdue.
“I was thinking about running it in,” Lippett said. “I was going to, but I don’t get too many chances to throw it.”
On a day Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook struggled, it seemed fitting the only offensive score would come on a throw from a receiver. That’s just what Lippett did, taking a reverse toss from Cook and rolling into the flat with nothing but green grass in front of him.
But Gleichert was also wide open, making the choice simple either way for Lippett.
“Excellent read,” joked offensive coordinator Dave Warner. “No, I’m just kidding the guy was wide open, he probably could have ran it in himself if he wanted to. Tony’s been playing great for us and obviously that was a big play.”
It was a big play, but Lippett’s solid play has been in more the traditional sense for a wide receiver. He was inserted back in the staring lineup in the Big Ten opener against Iowa, made six grabs last week against Indiana and pulled down five catches for 49 yards on Saturday.
On top of that, he’s making the tough catches he didn’t make last season or in the first few weeks, including a tough one between two defenders against the Boilermakers.
“I feel like I expect myself to make any catch,” said Lippett, a former standout at Detroit Crockett. “I try to put myself into position to make any catch. I’m not going to say (at the beginning of the season) I wouldn’t have made that catch, I was just going to try and be aggressive to the ball and act like it’s just me and Connor out there. I just got to do my best to present myself and go get the ball.”
Lippett’s play was even more vital on Saturday as senior Bennie Fowler sat out with a hamstring injury and sophomore Aaron Burbridge left the game early with an injury.
That left most of the work to Lippett, Macgarrett Kings Jr. and R.J. Shelton with a little help from Andre Sims and Keith Mumphery.
“I thought Lippett played very well,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “He picked up the slack. We played some younger players. We played R.J. Shelton a lot more at the Z. Macgarrett Kings was involved, A.J. Sims was involved, Keith Mumphery got his hands back in there a little bit so that was good for him. Obviously, it affects us. They’re good football players. In the end, we’ve got to be more effective throwing the football.”
The offense did find some life late through the air and Michigan State hopes that momentum carries through next week at Illinois.
“We missed on a few things,” Lippett said. “We got to take it one day at a time and watch the film and try to correct it the best way that we can, which we will do next week in practice. Just settle down and go out there and play hard.”