2011 Michigan State Spartans Football

 
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Michigan State vs Wisconsin Football Recap

Michigan State 37, Wisconsin 31

 

 

With 30 seconds left in regulation, the Michigan State Spartans faced a third-and-long situation on their own side of the field, with the clock running down and the prospect of overtime looming over a hushed crowd that, 10 minutes earlier, was celebrating a 14-point fourth-quarter lead against a top-10 opponent playing not just for conference superiority, but a potential spot in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game.

Michigan State merchandise A Michigan State program that has slipped on the banana peel so many times in big games over the years had just allowed a 31-17 lead to slip away. The Wisconsin Badgers, behind a dominant running back and an inconsistent yet sometimes dazzling quarterback, uncorked a stirring two-touchdown rally to turn almost-certain defeat into a tie and a likely venture into the coin flip known as college football’s overtime system. It was entirely in Wisconsin’s best interest to allow the clock to tick, tick, tick away.

For some reason, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema thought otherwise, and that’s what set the table for a remarkable ending, the best of the college football season to date.

The Spartans improved to 6-1 with a dramatic upset of the fourth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday night in East Lansing. Kirk Cousins completed a 44-yard Hail Mary to Keith Nichol as time expired, breaking a 31-31 tie and giving the surging Spartans their fourth win in a row.

Nichol was awarded a touchdown after video review reversed the initial ruling, which was that he had been tackled short of the goal line. However, the play wouldn’t have happened if Bielema had not called timeout with 30 seconds left and the clock running at Spartan Stadium. The timeout gave MSU a chance to draw up a 3rd-and-8 play and get a first down. Bielema essentially stabilized MSU’s last-ditch drive, giving the Spartans just enough time to get close enough (barely) to throw the Hail Mary that just crossed the goal line by about six to eight inches, as replay monitors showed.

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MSU coach Mark Dantonio's team has now won 17 of its last 20 games. Cousins completed 22 of 31 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns. He did not throw an interception.

Wisconsin took an early 14-0 lead, but Michigan State battled back, outscoring the Badgers 23-0 in the second quarter to lead by nine at the half. Michigan State blocked two kicks, including a punt block that was recovered for a touchdown late in the second quarter. A blocked field goal also set up a Michigan State touchdown drive. One week after taking 13 penalties in a win over Michigan, the Spartans were not penalized once against Wisconsin.

Wisconsin trailed 31-17 in the fourth quarter, but quarterback Russell Wilson led the Badgers on two touchdown drives, tying the score on a two-yard pass to running back Montee Ball with 1:26 to play. Ball led the first of the two touchdown drives that tied the score, bringing Wisconsin within seven points, at 31-24, midway through the fourth quarter. Wilson was the man who led the tying drive inside the final two minutes of regulation. Wilson completed 14 of 21 passes for 223 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran for a 22-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Ball carried 18 times for 115 yards and a touchdown.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

 

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