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MSU's Felton Davis stands out as go-to guy in clutch moments

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — It didn’t take Felton Davis long to show why he is so valuable to the Michigan State offense.

In the season-opening 38-31 victory over Utah State on Friday night, the senior wide receiver was everything the Spartans expected him to be — the physical, game-changing player he was when he caught 55 passes and scored nine touchdowns last season as a junior.

When Brian Lewerke dropped back to pass and needed a big play, he looked Davis’ way. It began late in the second quarter when Lewerke was scrambling from pressure in the red zone and fired the ball to the corner of the end zone. Davis was covered, but wiggled his way around a defender and grabbed his first touchdown of the season while falling out of bounds.

And late in the fourth quarter, with the Spartans trailing by a point, it was Davis again that came up with a big play.

On second-and-7 from near midfield, Lewerke fired the ball down the left sideline toward Davis, who twisted around with a defender on him and caught the ball while falling to the ground. It gave the Spartans the ball at the Utah State 21, and four plays later, Michigan State had retaken the lead.

For good measure, Davis grabbed a two-point conversion pass from Lewerke.

“It was a huge catch,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “It put us down there in field goal position so we could run out the clock, kick a field goal and win it or possibly score a touchdown and then he has a big two-point conversion catch as well. 

“He's a player; He's made some big catches last year and he'll continue to do that.”

More:Uptempo Utah State offense sounds alarm bell for Michigan State's defense

As good as Davis has been, he also gets plenty of help. Last season, Darrell Stewart had 50 receptions and Cody White had 35. Both were once again involved on Friday.

White caught Michigan State’s first touchdown of the season while Stewart led the Spartans with seven catches for 55 yards.

“I thought we got some catches from the other two guys as well; Cody White and Darrell Stewart,” Dantonio said. “We just got to clean up some of our mistakes that are correctable.”

Most of the mistakes came from unforced penalties and the offense’s inability to run the ball consistently.

However, there don’t seem to be any concerns with the passing game as Lewerke threw for 287 yards and spread the ball around. In addition to Stewart’s seven grabs, White had five and Davis finished with three. All three were significant.

“Man, he’s great,” White said of Davis. “You can throw him the ball anywhere and he’s gonna come down with it. He’s been a mentor for me, being like a big brother and has been great for me.”

He’s been great for the Spartans, too, and expects to improve on his second-team All-Big Ten showing from a season ago. If he does, the MSU offense should be in good shape.

And despite a slow start on Friday, the entire unit remains confident.

“It took a little bit to get going obviously, but I think once we did there were times where it was good and times where it was bad,” said Lewerke, who overcame an interception returned for a touchdown. “The O-line just started working together better as a unit as the game went on and obviously I can't have an interception and that fumble. 

“There's a lot of times where I had to get the ball off quick, but I thought the O-line did a good job.”