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Michigan State WR Cody White caught three TD passes from QB Brian Lewerke in the victory over Rutgers. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News

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Piscataway, N.J. — It didn’t take long to realize the sort of day it was going to be for Cody White.

The Michigan State junior entered Saturday’s game at Rutgers just four catches behind senior Darrell Stewart for the team lead, but with Stewart out for the third straight week because of a foot injury, the path has been clear for White to take over.

By midway through the first quarter of Michigan State’s 27-0 win over Rutgers, White had already passed Stewart and had pulled in a touchdown pass. And by the time it was all said and done, White had a career-high 11 receptions for 136 yards and finished with three touchdowns, matching the most in a game ever by a Michigan State player.

“I started to catch a few slants and we had that first play of the game when they called an out route and I kind of went up and got it,” White said. “So right off the bat, my confidence was high and I just kind of kept building throughout the game.”

The first drive of the game ended with White hauling in a 21-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone and late in the second quarter with Michigan State in the two-minute offense, White pulled in a 16-yard touchdown pass to put the Spartans up 17-0 headed to the locker room.

“They were playing off on him and he was playing in the slot,” quarterback Brian Lewerke said. “None of the guys around him could cover them and they're playing off on him too, so he was getting free releases and I just tossed the ball out there and let him make plays.”

The connection between Lewerke — he finished 21-for-30 for 239 yards — was impressive throughout the game.

“Oh, yeah, me and Brian have always have a good connection,” White said. “He's been able to find me even in areas where I'm like, ‘How do you fit that in there?’ But he finds a way, so he just he's able to make plays for offense and (I was) able to contribute today.”

White now has 54 catches this season for 741 yards with five touchdowns. All are career-best numbers for the junior who is emerging as a star late in an otherwise forgettable season.

“Cody White had a tremendous day,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “Big catches, great catches, extra effort catches. (He) actually had one turned over and had the one pulled away clean in the end zone as well.”

Ah yes, the potential fourth touchdown.

White actually could be holding the program record for most touchdown catches in a game if not for a heck of a defensive play by Rutgers safety Tim Barrow.

With Michigan State facing a third-and-9 from the Rutgers 10, Lewerke put the ball in White’s hands in the back corner of the end zone. But just as White went to grab it, Barrow knocked it loose and into the hands of linebacker Deion Jennings.

“That’s gonna be on my mind,” White said. “I had it right away and he punched it right when I had caught it. So he made a good play on the ball, but I'm still gonna think about that one and that I could have had could had another one.”

White more than made up for it in the fourth quarter on his final touchdown catch, a one-hander from 7 yards out that he hauled in for the final score of the game.

“It was behind me and I just reached back with one hand and just ended up catching it,” White said. “There all this excitement and all my teammates were going crazy. It was just a fun moment just to be out there.”

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau

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