Davis fights through the pain, wills Spartans to victory

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Penn State cornerback Amani Oruwariye can't stop the winning 25-yard touchdown pass to Michigan State wide receiver Felton Davis III, right, in the fourth quarter.

State College, Pa. — As Michigan State was desperately trying to move down the field in the final minute Saturday at Penn State, quarterback Brian Lewerke fired a pass to the sideline that soared over the hands of receiver Felton Davis.

As Davis fell to the ground, he landed hard on his hip. He tried to get up quickly, but the pain kept him on the Beaver Stadium turf.

It was the absolute worst time for Davis to get hurt. Already without Cody White and Darrell Stewart Jr. the Spartans’ receivers were hurting. Cam Chambers was playing with a bad thumb suffered in the first half and even Brandon Sowards was banged up.

“That’s the first thing went through my head when I landed on the ground,” Davis said.

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So, after he slowly got up, Davis watched fellow receiver Laress Nelson pick up 11 yards and headed back onto the field. After a pass to Davis was nearly intercepted, Connor Heyward ran for 8 yards and set the Spartans up at the Penn State 25.

In the huddle, Davis looked to Lewerke.

“I told him to throw it up and give me a chance to make a play, and that’s what we did,” Davis said.

Lewerke did just that, throwing a back-shoulder pass as Davis slipped past Penn State cornerback Amani Oruwariye to catch the ball, then hop into the end zone for the touchdown, giving Michigan State a 21-17 victory.

“I knew 100 percent it was going to him,” Lewerke said. “Coach (Dave) Warner called fades and I knew, even if he was double-covered, I was going to him. Any time you throw ball to him he’s bound to make a play.”Make a play he did, as he has done often for Michigan State. Davis finished with eight catches for 100 yards and said he might have been 60 percent before the final snap.

“I love Felton,” senior safety Khari Willis said. “He put it all on the line. Felton is an animal.”

That’s exactly what the Spartans (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) needed to pull off the upset. White is out with a hand injury and Stewart missed his second game with an ankle injury.

It has left the receiving corps depleted as even Nelson was hurt on the final drive. That made Davis’ play all the more important, even as Penn State was making life difficult on the senior receiver by keeping Oruwariye on him the entire game.

However, Davis got the best of the duel when it mattered most.

“He played very well,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said of Davis. “We tried to move him around a little bit and get him targeted and have the opportunity to catch the football.

“Again, a third-down play with 30 seconds to go, I knew we could line up and kick a field goal and go to overtime. So, Coach Warner asked what I wanted. I said, ‘Why don’t we just throw a touchdown pass? Go to the end zone?’ So, that’s what we did.”

It helped to have Davis, who had his fourth 100-yard receiving game.

“I was just trying to make a play for my team,” Davis said. “Everyone wanted this game. Everyone played so hard. I didn’t want to go to overtime, so I had to put the team on my back one time.”


Twitter @mattcharboneau