Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Gridders fall to Northwestern in heartbreaker

September 30, 2001
MSU senior wide receiver Herb Haygood (2) is brought down by Northwestern’s senior safety Marvin Brown during the game at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. —

Evanston, Ill - Before the final second ticked away, the game seemed over at least three times.

But Northwestern (3-0, 1-0 Big Ten) scored a 47-yard field goal as time expired to beat MSU 27-26 in thrilling fashion.

Moments earlier it had looked like a happy ending for MSU (2-1, 0-1).

Senior wide receiver Herb Haygood returned a Northwestern kickoff 84-yards with 18 seconds left in the game, to put the Spartans up 26-24.

But again, MSU hurt itself with a penalty. An unsportsmanlike conduct call for celebrating after the touchdown forced the Spartans to kick the extra point from the 35-yard line, where it was blocked.

The play capped a horrendous day of MSU kicking. Senior kicker David Schaefer missed three field goals with the blocked extra point, and sophomore kicker Michael Servis went wide on another extra point attempt.

After MSU‘s touchdown, Wildcat quarterback Zak Kustok launched a Hail Mary 54 yards that was tipped and caught by wide receiver Jon Schweighardt. Two plays later the Wildcats kicked the winning field goal and stormed the field.

But MSU wouldn‘t have even been in the game if it wasn‘t for an earlier heroic play.

Trailing 17-14, sophomore wide receiver Charles Rogers returned a punt 64 yards to put the Spartans up 20-17 with 4:51 left.

But Northwestern answered with its own miracle drive - the Wildcat‘s cruised 70 yards down the field in 15 plays to score on a 3-yard touchdown pass and go up 24-20 with 29 seconds left.

Perhaps lost in late chaos was the play of redshirt freshman quarterback Damon Dowdell. Dowdell’s college debut transformed MSU’s already controversial two-quarterback system into a three-quarterback system.

Dowdell entered the game on fourth-and-two with MSU trailing 17-7 at Northwestern‘s 20-yard line in the final minute of the first half.

After Dowdell ran the ball 13-yards to the 7-yard line, MSU went with the same play again. That time, Dowdell ran 3-yards before hurling himself into the end zone for his first collegiate touchdown - making it a 17-14 game at halftime.

The Spartans first touchdown came on its first possession as the team rode junior running back T.J. Duckett for 1:31 and 47-yards into the end zone to take a 7-0 lead.

Duckett carried the ball four straight plays before taking a 1-yard stroll into the end zone. He finished the game with 104 yards on 22 carries.

On the next drive MSU held Northwestern at fourth-and-one, but sophomore wide receiver Ziehl Kavanaght fumbled the Wildcat‘s punt at MSU‘s 24-yard line. The Wildcats ran five plays in 1:05 before quarterback Zak Kustok took the ball into the end zone himself, tying the game at seven.

MSU returns to East Lansing to play Iowa (3-0, 1-0) next Saturday.

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