You've seen Hail Marys. You remember the Kick Six. Well this might be an even more improbable way to win a game than all of that.
Michigan State trailed Michigan by two points with 10 seconds remaining in Saturday's rivalry game between two top-12 teams. The Wolverines lined up to punt with the game practically decided, or so we thought. Michigan punter Blake O'Neill fumbled the snap on the punt, and Michigan State's Jalen Watts-Jackson picked it up and ran it back 38 yards for a game-winning touchdown with no time remaining on the clock. The insane final play gave the Spartans a 27-23 win and kept their record unblemished at 7-0.
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It was an obviously shocking finish, considering everyone was already talking about Michigan State's undefeated season being over and Michigan ascending to one of the two top spots in the Big Ten. But that talk was dashed away with that final play. The Spartans remain perfect and are very much in the hunt for a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Wolverines are left stunned though still looking like a terrific football team.
The game's final play almost wiped out the memories of the previous 59 minutes and 50 seconds of football. It was an entertaining game, one where defense reigned, unsurprisingly. Despite being banged up badly this season, the Michigan State defense turned in a superb performance, holding Michigan to just 230 total offensive yards. Neither team gained much traction on the ground, with the Spartans going for 58 and the Wolverines gaining 62.
It was the play of Connor Cook that produced the majority of the game's offense. The Michigan State quarterback passed for 328 yards and a touchdown in the win.
Michigan full back Sione Houma broke a scoreless tie in the second quarter with a touchdown run, a score that was answered shortly thereafter by Michigan State running back LJ Scott's scoring rush. The Wolverines tacked on a field goal before the end of the half to make it a 10-7 game.
In the third quarter, Houma scored again to put the Wolverines up 10. Cook answered with a beautiful 30-yard touchdown toss to Macgarrett Kings to bring the Spartans back within three. But Michigan added another field goal before the close of the third quarter and another not far into the fourth to make it a two-score game.
The game's most explosive play was Cook's pass to full back Trevon Pendleton that went 75 yards for a touchdown, though the score was called back to the one-yard line after review. Scott rushed in for a touchdown on the next play, cutting Michigan's lead to two.
The Spartans' attempt at a game-winning drive stalled out when Cook's fourth-and-19 pass fell incomplete. Michigan took over and wound the clock down as low as it could before the madness in the final 10 seconds.
Michigan State's win doesn't do much to shed its reputation of surviving by the skin of its teeth, but that's a much more impressive feat against Michigan than it was against Purdue and Rutgers. The win should restore some of the respect to the Spartans' playoff resume.
Meanwhile, Michigan shouldn't lose any supporters as being one of the country's better teams. But it will be very difficult to crash the College Football Playoff field with two losses, plus there's a game against No. 1 Ohio State remaining on the schedule.