Monday, June 17, 2024

Last-second play smokes No. 6 Wolverines, MSU wins 26-24

November 3, 2001
Freshman safety Robert Flagg upends Michigan running back Chris Perry in the 3rd quarter of Saturday’s 26-24 win over the Wolverines at Spartan Stadium. The game was won on sophomore quarterback Jeff Smoker’s touchdown pass to junior tailback T.J. Duckett with no time left on the clock.

The MSU Spartans found some of the New York Yankees ninth-inning magic on Saturday night.

When everything seemed over and done for the Spartans (5-2, 3-2 Big Ten) sophomore quarterback Jeff Smoker threw an off-balance pass to junior tailback T.J. Duckett with no time left on the clock to go up 26-24 over the visiting No. 6 Wolverines.

The last-second, game-winning play was just the finale to an awesome show by Duckett, who rushed for 211 yards on 27 carries for one touchdown, and received for 19 yards on three carries and one touchdown.

As Duckett fell into the corner of the end zone, his team erupted from the sideline, streaming onto the field, the 75,262 fans went absolutely crazy and U-M’s hopes for a trip to the Rose Bowl all but vanished.

The touchdown play was the result of Michigan‘s (6-2, 4-1) mistakes and a lot of Spartan luck.

U-M gave the ball back to MSU with 2:25 remaining and the Spartans began their 44-yard drive to the end zone.

Smoker was sacked on the first play of the drive and threw the ball away on the second. MSU passing pitfalls filled the game - U-M recorded a school-best 13 sacks against Smoker.

On third down, Duckett dropped a pass with 1:25 left on the clock. The Spartans faced fourth and 16, but a personal foul on the Wolverines took them up to the 35-yard line.

With a 1:01 left, Smoker completed a 17-yard pass to senior wide receiver Herb Haygood, placing MSU on the 18-yard line.

Smoker was sacked on the next play for the 12th time in the game. But U-M had too many men on the field and the penalty put MSU at the 12-yard line with :36 on the clock.

Three plays later, on fourth and four, an 8-yard pass from Smoker to Duckett gave MSU a first down, leaving :17 on the clock. Smoker took the ball on a keeper to the 1-yard line and spiked the ball with :01 left.

And on the next play Smoker found Duckett in the end zone for the 2-yard touchdown, and Spartan Stadium exploded.

The game was tied at 17 going into the fourth quarter. With 7:33 left in the game, MSU edged ahead by three when freshman kicker Dave Rayner hit a 26-yard field goal.

Rayner had tied the game at 17 with a 27-yard field goal at the end of the third quarter.

MSU’s fumbled a snap early in the fourth quarter, and on the next play, Wolverine running back Calvine Bell took the ball to MSU’s 22-yard line with a 21-yard run.

Two plays later, Navarre tossed a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Gonzales to take a 24-20 lead with 4:44 remaining, setting up MSU’s winning drive.

The score ping-ponged across the board four times in the first half.

On the game’s opening drive senior punter Craig Jarrett passed the ball from the 32-yard line to sophomore wide receiver Charles Rogers on fourth and 11.

The ball went through Rogers’ hands, but pass interference was called. The penalty put MSU at the 16-yard line and three plays later Smoker floated a pass over Rogers‘ shoulder for a touchdown.

On the next drive, kicker Hayden Epstein put the Wolverines on the board with a 57-yard field goal, a school-record for U-M.

U-M took its first lead, 10-7, when wide receiver Marquise Walker caught a pass from Navarre at the 6-yard line and juked freshman cornerback Roderick Maples before walking into the end zone.

Another pass interference penalty set up a 2-yard touchdown run for Duckett that gave MSU a 14-10 lead with 7:35 left in the first half.

U-M reclaimed the lead with 5:04 left in the half. A 32-yard pass from Navarre to Walker put U-M up 17-14.

Smoker finished 15-of-35 for 183 yards.

Injury report: MSU senior defensive tackle Josh Shaw is lost for the season after tearing ligaments in his knee in the second half.

Shaw is the fifth defensive player to end the season early since August.

Cornerback Cedric Henry was declared academically inelligble, and corners Jason Harmon, DeMario Suggs and corner/tailback Tyrell Dortch have all sustained season-ending injuries.

Shaw was MSU’s top defensive tackle, and was one of the best at his position in the country.

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