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University Park, Pa. — You want to pick a player who best embodies the spirit of this Michigan State football team — how about defensive end Marcus Rush?

"He's like a lot of our players are," running back Jeremy Langford said. "We're hard workers. We go get what we want. They're not going to give it to us. That's what Rush's statement is — we're going to get something and we're not going to worry about what the outside crowd says. We're just going to worry about our family in this locker room."

Rush has played in 52 straight games, a school record. He has been on all four of the double-digit win teams under coach Mark Dantonio. And Saturday, in his final Big 10 game, he made two game-changing plays.

"If somebody says you are a grinder, that's a compliment," Dantonio said. "That means you just constantly come and come and come and you are never stepping back and you are continually moving forward — that's what he does.

"He's got a huge motor. Are there bigger guys, taller guys? Yeah, but he plays with a passion."

Rush had two sacks on Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg, though he was credited only with a half-sack. The first came at the start of the second quarter, and it pushed the Nittany Lions out of field-goal range.

The second helped break the game open. The Spartans had just scored to take a 20-3 lead. On Penn State's first play, he caught Hackenberg and stripped the ball. Taiwan Jones recovered and the Spartans scored four plays later.

"The tight end tried to block me, and I had a pretty good move on him," Rush said. "Our secondary played it well and Hackenberg was probably trying to get his second reads. I was able to get my arm around and knock it out."

It wasn't the ending Rush dreamed about. His heart was set on another Big Ten title game and a chance to win the national championship. But four seasons of 10-plus wins and four elite bowl games is not too shabby.

"Pretty much complete for us seniors," he said. "We've worked so hard from our freshman year 'till now. It's an unbelievable feeling."

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/cmccosky

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