Sept. 13, 2008
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - On a career day, perhaps Michigan State running back Javon Ringer's most striking accomplishment Saturday was hanging onto the ball.
Over and over again, in a nearly constant rain, with the entire Florida Atlantic defense trying to rip it away from him.
Ringer splashed his way to a career-high 282 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns to lead Michigan State past Florida Atlantic in a non-conference game, 17-0, in a soggy Spartan Stadium.
Ringer did it on a career-best 43 carries.
"I knew that we were going to run the ball a lot with the weather," he said. "My No. 1 concern was holding onto the ball. The field held up well and it wasn't too muddy. The ball was just slippery."
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said dry towels were as important as anything Saturday. Knowing rain was forecast, the Spartans practiced playing in wet conditions by dunking footballs in water before putting them in play.
It wasn't an exact simulation.
Quarterbacks and placeholders bobbled snaps throughout the game. The passing game was nonexistent, except for a few big plays. Quarterbacks slipped, receivers slid.
But not Ringer.
"Big numbers," Dantonio said of Ringer's performance. "But to me, the most impressive thing about his performance was no turnovers. He held onto the ball."
Ringer gave Michigan State (2-1) a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter on a 21-yard run. He ran into traffic up the middle, hid behind his offensive line for a fraction of a second, then darted left and headed to the end zone.
It would be all the points the Spartans needed as the Florida Atlantic (1-2) offense stalled in the deluge. The Michigan State defense was strong, getting its first shutout since 1999.
Ringer's running set up the Spartans' second score, a 22-yard field goal by Brett Swenson midway through the third quarter to give Michigan State a 10-0 lead. Ringer's 11-yard TD run early in the fourth put the Spartans ahead 17-0.
Ringer's previous rushing best was 203 yards, set last year against Indiana. His 282-yard day ranks fourth in school history.
The Owls are in their eighth football season, all under 74-year-old coach Howard Schnellenberger. The program's biggest wins came last year over Big Ten member Minnesota in the regular season and against Memphis in the New Orleans Bowl.
But the Owls' bid for an upset Saturday never materialized, thanks to Ringer and the Spartans' offensive line.
"That's a big problem, to sort through those five guys and find out where he is," Schnellenberger said. "When they all come off at one time they look like a herd of water buffaloes stampeding, and there's a gazelle behind them."
Florida Atlantic had a few scoring chances slip away.
Trailing 17-0 midway through the fourth quarter, Owls quarterback Rusty Smith didn't get a snap cleanly and it was recovered by Michigan State defensive back Danny Fortener inside the Spartan 5-yard line.
In the first quarter, a bobbled snap prevented the Owls from getting off a field goal attempt. "We were not able to handle the elements today," Smith said.
Smith was 8-for-34 for 143 yards. Charles Pierre had 57 yards on 12 carries.
Michigan State defensive back Otis Wiley had four pass breakups. The secondary did a good job containing Florida Atlantic's wide receivers.
Michigan State's Brian Hoyer completed 5 of 15 for 88 yards with an interception.