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College Football | SILICON VALLEY CLASSIC

Spartans Go by the Numbers

January 01, 2002|LARRY STEWART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN JOSE — The Silicon Valley Classic between Michigan State and Fresno State on Monday was expected to produce some big numbers starting with the score.

It did, indeed.

Michigan State won, 44-35, before a near-sellout of 30,456 at cozy Spartan Stadium, home of the San Jose State Spartans.

On this day, the stadium belonged to the Michigan State Spartans, particularly their offense.

"It was a great game with a lot of big plays," Fresno State Coach Pat Hill said. "Michigan State just had more big plays."

The two teams combined for 753 yards--in the first half. They finished with a combined 1,146 yards.

Fresno State quarterback David Carr had 531 yards passing and his favorite receiver, Rodney Wright, caught 13 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Wright's receiving yards set a school record.

Carr finished his Fresno State career with 70 touchdown passes, another school record.

The Michigan State quarterback was smokin' too. Sophomore Jeff Smoker completed 22 of 32 passes for 376 yards and three touchdowns.

"We made the big plays, and that's what you have to do in a big game," Smoker said.

Michigan State receiver Charles Rogers caught 10 passes for a school-record 270 yards and two touchdowns, and was selected the most valuable player on offense. They selected an MVP on defense too, believe it or not. It was Michigan State end Nick Myers.

Carr completed 35 of 56 passes, with four going for touchdowns. He had five touchdown passes in last year's Silicon Valley Classic, which Fresno lost, 37-34, to Air Force.

He completed passes to nine receivers Monday.

"It was a shame someone had to lose this game," Carr said.

It wasn't really decided until Smoker threw a five-yard touchdown pass to backup tight end Ivory McCoy with 1:59 to play.

Michigan State led, 37-21, at halftime, and Fresno State pulled within 37-35 before that touchdown pass to McCoy.

After that, the large red-clad Fresno contingent that made the three-hour drive to San Jose believed the Bulldogs still had a chance.

But an interception and 23-yard return by freshman cornerback Roderick Maples sealed it.

Fresno State (11-3) took a short opening kickoff and went 63 yards in four plays to take a 7-0 lead on a pass play to tight end Stephen Spach less than a minute into the game.

Fresno State had three false starts in its next possession. The third one ended a drive at midfield.

The Spartans (7-5) had four big plays in the first half.

The first was a 72-yard touchdown pass play to Rogers one play after Fresno State missed a field-goal try.

The second came when Carr fumbled on the Bulldog six, the ball was kicked into the end zone and Michigan State's Monquiz Wedlow fell on it for a touchdown.

Another came on a fourth and one at the Michigan State 39. Instead of going up the middle, T.J. Duckett went around the left side to score and give the Spartans a 24-14 lead.

The other big play was 69-yard touchdown pass to Rogers that made the score, 37-21, at halftime.

Michigan State scored only one touchdown in the second half, but that was all the Spartans needed.

The difference may have been Duckett. He finished with 184 yards and two touchdowns in 27 carries.

Fresno State's leading rusher was Paris Gaines with 28 yards in 10 carries.

Michigan State outgained Fresno State on the ground, 227 yards to 29.

It was Fresno State's third consecutive bowl loss. Besides losing to Air Force last year, the Bulldogs lost to Utah, 17-16, in the 1999 Las Vegas Bowl.

But Hill remained upbeat Monday.

"I told our players that the game may be a small blemish, but it doesn't tarnish at all the season they had," Hill said. "This was a big-time football game, with a big-time atmosphere, with two very good teams."

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