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Kruse gets number called, lives lineman's dream

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Senior Connor Kruse (54) gets a hug from teammate Andrew Gleichert (84) after he took a handoff and ran the football for a gain of 1-yard late in the game.

East Lansing — There was one thought going through Connor Kruse's mind late on Saturday afternoon in Michigan State's 45-3 victory over Rutgers.

"Don't fumble, don't fumble," Kruse said.

That would be an odd thought for most offensive lineman, but Kruse was in that spot in the fourth quarter with the ball in his hands on an end-around and the Rutgers defense in pursuit. It was a play originally designed for fellow fifth-year senior Travis Jackson, but he hurt his left leg early in the game.

So at halftime, coach Mark Dantonio asked Kruse if he wanted to run the ball. Kruse was game and he did manage to hang on to the ball, though he didn't exactly put up big yardage, officially gaining 1 yard.

"A little bit ago they told me they gave me a yard, that was definitely generous," Kruse said. "I appreciate them doing that. I didn't think I got any yards, but it was still fun."

It was a play similar to the one run by former offensive lineman Joel Foreman, who ran the ball on Senior Day in 2011.

And while Kruse was happy he got to carry on the tradition of offensive lineman running the ball, he was disappointed Jackson didn't get the carry.

The two are close friends, but Kruse said Jackson was right there on the sidelines congratulating him after the run.

"He's my best friend and it hurts to see him go down like that," Kruse said. "But as soon as he knew I was running it he was like, 'You better run the hell out of it, dude.' I was pumped."

Dantonio was as excited as Kruse.

"I don't mean to throw it as an insult towards anybody, but there is nothing like letting an offensive lineman run the football," he said. "You know what it means to those guys. If you have ever been an offensive linemen, you know that touching the football is like finding gold out there. We wanted to give him that opportunity, so I think he performed admirably with a high gear."

Geiger gets the ball

Sophomore kicker Michael Geiger also got into the fun, taking a fake field goal and coming up just a yard short of scoring a touchdown when it was ruled he stepped out at the 1.

"I've been waiting to bring the wheels out," Geiger said. "Whenever you put the ball in the hands of a 5-9 kid from Toledo, there is gonna be an adrenaline rush. So it was definitely a big moment for me and definitely exciting and scary at times."

Michigan State led at the time, 35-0, but Dantonio said he wasn't concerned about the possibility it looked like he was running up the score.

"That would have been a long field goal," he said. "It was go for it on fourth down or fake it. That would have been a long field goal and we were just trying to play the game at that point. We had not scored at that point in the second half."

Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said he had no problem with the play.

"I don't concern myself above and beyond defending the plays," he said. "It's their job to call the plays that they want to call."

Extra points

With 520 total yards, Michigan State set the single-season record for total offense with 5,660 yards. The previous mark had been 5,520 yards in 2004.

The Spartans offense also matched the mark for rushing touchdowns in a season, getting four on Saturday to bring their total to 38, the same number they had in 1948.

… Michigan State's defense allowed three points for the second straight Senior Day. Last season, it held Minnesota to three points in a 14-3 victory.