The No. 7 MSU football team defeated the No. 12 Michigan Wolverines, 27-23, Saturday off a miraculous special teams mishap where U-M fumbled the a punt snap and redshirt freshman defensive back Jalen Watts-Jackson returned the fumble for a TD as time expired.
MSU won, 27-23 and improved to 7-0 on the season.
The first half of play started slow for both teams, but costly penalties by the Wolverines allowed the Spartans to take 8:05 off the clock on their second drive of the game.
It wasn’t until the second quarter that the game saw its first score.
U-M put together an 8-play, 72-yard and 3:46 drive capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run from senior fullback Sione Houma. The touchdown brought the score to 7-0, U-M, with 13:13 remaining in the game.
The game’s next score would come after U-M senior linebacker Joe Bolden was called for a targeting personal foul on Cook. Bolden was ejected from the game per the NCAA targeting rule. The Spartans were able to capitalize when freshman running back LJ Scott ran in a touchdown from 11 yards out, bringing the score to 7-7 with 7:06 remaining in the half.
After the touchdown, the MSU special teams yet again made the defense’s job harder. U-M took over in MSU territory at the 48-yard line and were able to advance to the MSU 20-yard line. U-M senior kicker Kenny Allen knocked in a 38-yard attempt to bring the score to 10-7 at halftime.
In the second half, special teams went from a problem to a deciding factor for the Spartans in their game against the University of Michigan.
The Wolverines were able to take advantage of line-drive punts by MSU junior quarterback Tyler O’Connor and poor special teams coverage by the kickoff team in the first half by starting multiple drives in MSU territory.
And knowing this, MSU decided to fake its first punt attempt of the second half, but O’Connor’s dive to the first down marker was just short. The Wolverines took advantage of the special teams mistake, again, and Houma scored his second touchdown of the game on a 1-yard run with 9:17 remaining in the third quarter — Wolverines, 17, Spartans, 7.
The Spartans would answer right back with a score of their own, though. Junior wide receiver R.J. Shelton had an outstanding sideline grab to sustain the drive and Cook threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Macgarrett Kings Jr. to bring the score to 17-14, U-M, with 7:07 remaining in the third quarter. The drive lasted just five plays and went for 75 yards in 2:10.
On the ensuing possession, the Wolverines would answer the Spartans call with a 21-yard field goal, bringing the score to 20-14 with 17:06 remaining in the game.
Into the fourth quarter, the Spartans marched down to about the 50-yard line and were stopped short on third down, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on U-M gave the Spartans the first down into Wolverines’ territory. MSU was unable to capitalize on the drive, though.
Poor special teams play by the Spartans again put the Wolverines in favorable positioning, as they only needed an 8-yard drive to get into scoring position. With 9:25 remaining, Allen made his second field attempt of the game, this one from 38 yards to make the score 23-14.
And as was the case the entire second half, the opposing team answered. The Spartans were set-up with a first and goal after a 74-yard pass from Cook to senior fullback Trevon Pendleton. Scott would get his second touchdown of the game on the next play, making the score 23-21 on a 2-play, 75-yard and 29-second drive.
U-M began a key drive with 6:41 remaining in the game where the team could have run out the clock to seal the victory. Instead, MSU played sound defense and took back over with 4:54 remaining to attempt a possible game-winning drive of its own.
With 1:54 remaining in the game, the Wolverines broke up a fourth down heave by Cook to Kings and ran out the clock until there was ten seconds left.
But the dropped punt snap allowed Jackson to return the score for a touchdown and victory as time expired.
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