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MSU's Lippett corners his share of acclaim in victory

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Tony Lippett (14) leaves Rutgers' Lorenzo Waters behind on his way to a first quarter touchdown as MSU hosts Rutgers, Saturday afternoon Nov. 22, 2014, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.

East Lansing — Tony Lippett knew Tuesday that his coach wanted him to play some cornerback this week.

But by the time Saturday's game against Rutgers started, the idea apparently slipped his mind. Even though the fifth-year senior receiver was penciled in by coach Mark Dantonio as the starter on defense, sophomore Demetrious Cox took the first snap.

"I forgot," Lippett said, holding back a laugh.

Maybe that's because Lippett hasn't seen that side of the ball since his redshirt freshman season of 2011. That year, he started four games at cornerback. But by 2012, he was a full-time receiver.

Until Saturday, that is, even if it happened a play later than planned.

"I didn't know how he was going to do it," Lippett said. "I didn't know if he was going to put me out there or call me. I was just chilling and then he told me I was supposed to be out there."

By the second play of Michigan State's 45-3 victory over Rutgers, Lippett was in position and he looked like he had hardly missed a beat, playing well into the third quarter and breaking up a pair of passes.

"He fit right in with the no-fly zone," safety Kurtis Drummond said. "Tony's played before and he's a great athlete. It wasn't anything nerve-racking for me. Tony made some great plays, great tackles and he brought excitement too for us. Having Tony out there, it was fun to be able to play with him again."

Dantonio was quick to point out the move had nothing to do with rewarding Lippett on Senior Day. It was to help a defense that had struggled in that spot in recent weeks as sophomore Darian Hicks has gone through some growing pains and to help Lippett's resume for a spot at the next level.

"It is not a tribute," Dantonio said. "You have got to earn your way into that. We are not just playing him to play him. … That adds to his draft status or whatever it is. It gives people a look at him in that area. He could start for us on either side and I have always maintained that it is possible to do that. When I say to a guy that he has a chance to start on both sides of the ball, I mean that. He is a guy that we have said that about and we are going to do that."

While Dantonio said it is likely Lippett will play more defense next week at Penn State, there is no doubting his value on offense.

Lippett caught five passes for 72 yards and a touchdown and became the eighth receiver in Michigan State history to go over 1,000 yards receiving in a season. His 1,071 yards put him in seventh all-time, just 9 yards behind Courtney Hawkins (1,080 in 1989).

But for at least a day, Lippett showed there are few limits for him on the football field.

"I played corner here before," Lippett said. "So (Dantonio) wanted to ask me about the situation first and I just tried to embrace it, like I said, to go out there, have fun, play loose and try to compete."