Senior kicker Michael Geiger reflects on last season's game-winning field goal against OSU
Deep in the heart of Columbus with the wind sweeping down on Ohio Stadium, MSU kicker Michael Geiger stepped to the ball, launched it end over end off his foot and sent it straight.
It hooked through the uprights as the final seconds ticked off the clock, sending a dream on life support sputtering back into reality like the arms of a windmill catching the first gust of a storm.
As Geiger ran down the field in a fit of jubilation, he mocked a windmill, right arm whirring, left arm outstretched and sending a current into the night with a message that MSU football’s championship race could not be defined by logic.
MSU football defeated then-No. 2 Ohio State 17-14, propelling themselves to the top of the Big Ten East standings with only one more win to go to ensure a trip back to Indianapolis.
Being at times tumultuous, the season was saved by an unlikely hero who had drawn the ire of a fan base trying to grasp relevance and fulfill expectations behind a championship.
Geiger wasn’t supposed to be the hero. He had gone 8-for-13 in field goal tries that season. He was 29-of-34 in his career.
“It was a huge moment for him,” junior linebacker Chris Frey said. “He had his ups and downs, but it was an opportunity for him to get his confidence back. It was a huge confidence booster for him and great opportunity and he nailed it.”
Nailed it, the 5-foot-9, 185-pound kicker did. And so they forgot his miscues.
INTO THE LIGHT:
Geiger hails from Toledo, Ohio, approximately 140 miles north of Columbus. His kicking talent had made him a star in recruiting circles, coming out of high school ranked the No. 1 kicker in the nation by various sources.
Outside of the overly immersed fan, Geiger was not a household name until he took the reins in 2013, hitting 15-of-16 field goals his freshman season.
But his rookie debut would be short lived as he went 14-of-22 his sophomore season. Last season his lackluster performance continued early, and he missed crucial field goals to increase shaky leads and even struggling to get distance and height on some.
Yet, for all the missed chances, MSU continued to win and his talents weren’t needed to stave off defeat.
But on a day in which MSU had out-gameplanned Ohio State, had outsmarted the Buckeyes and outworked them, the chance for a walk-off win rested on Geiger.
He had missed before in the game, snapping a 43-yard attempt to the left of the goal post. With three seconds left in the game from the right hash mark, he was given a second chance 41-yards out.
“It had rained earlier but kind of stopped, but then there was just pretty much a driving wind,” Geiger said. “I would say it was right to left and if anything a little bit at my back.”
The elements wouldn’t faze him.
As Geiger stepped to take the kick, the whistle had already blown. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer called timeout before the ball was snapped, attempting to freeze Geiger and give him pause about ending Ohio State’s season.
Geiger snapped the iced attempt through the uprights anyway.
Icing the kicker has long been a practice of opposing teams. It’s meant to prolong nerves and give the kicker a second doubt about trying a game-winning or game-tying field goal.
The effectiveness of icing the kicker is a preference for a coach, not a hard and fast rule. A recent study suggests it doesn’t matter whether a kicker is iced or not.
According to Fox News Sports, citing a STATS report, of the 110 game-winning/tying field goal tries in 2014, the 60 attempts that were not iced were converted at a rate of 73.3 percent. Of the 50 tries that were iced, the conversion rate was 72 percent.
“I’m standing on the sideline locked arms with everybody on the team, I just remember that first one he kicked went in,” Frey said. “They called time out and I was like, ‘alright he’s got this.’”
The timeout, however, might have been laden with a little more strategy than to call up Geiger’s nerves.
On the first try, Ohio State had split their defenders along the line with five guys on each side of the long snapper with one man over the top. Coming out of the timeout, Ohio State loaded seven guys to the long snapper’s left, a man over the top and three guys to the right in attempt to spring a man free.
The left side of the line held on the second try and so did Geiger’s nerves as he snapped the kick through the uprights, windmilled for nearly 50-yards and sent himself to instant stardom.
“It’s made me like, I would say B-List famous,” Geiger said, smiling. “Not famous famous, but like kicker famous.”
THE WINDMILL EFFECT:
The rest of the team followed Geiger down the field, deliriously racing toward the end zone with no clear intentions other than to whip the MSU faithful into a frenzy.
"It was crazy, I remember he kicked it and then he flew down the field and I had no clue where he went," fifth-year senior linebacker Riley Bullough said. "I think I ran the other way and it was just chaos."
Geiger's arm whirring became one of the leading highlights that night and throughout the rest of the college football season.
It wasn't planned either.
"Obviously with the celebration, anything after that was just pure emotion, just happiness," Geiger said. "It wasn’t premeditated. Sometimes you have in the back of your head, ‘hey maybe if hit a game winner I’ll have a celebration ready,' but that was just all instinct."
As he left the field he was interviewed by Spartan Sports Radio's Keith Nichol.
When asked about the kick, he uttered a now infamous phrase, "I f--king drilled it!"
The primal act of pure joy became an internet meme and the source of elation for many Spartan fans who have since reached out to Geiger.
"I’ll have people who like try and Facebook me and send me a video of their kid in pee wee football who windmilled after an extra point or something," Geiger said. "It’s been really fun for me for how many people have reached out to me or just will say they watched the kick or happy we won, it’s just been very cool."
The windmill still follows Geiger in practice where his teammates will yell out "windmill guy" during the practice field goal periods.
As for if they give him crap for the celebration, Frey summed it up.
"Not as much as the interview after the game when he dropped the f-bomb,” Frey said laughing, adding they imitate Geiger's windmill "all the time."
Geiger was located at the MSU basketball game a week later and showcased on the Jumbotron, where he gave the celebration again to a frenzied crowd.
The walk-off may be the last one for him, as MSU football hasn't been in a situation this season to need him in the waning seconds.