Saturday, August 8, 2020

The final minute in the eyes of Michigan State

September 14, 2019
<p>Junior kicker Matt Coghlin (4) grimaces after he misses a field goal during the game against Arizona State on Sept. 14, 2019 at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans fell to the Sun Devils, 10-7.</p>

Junior kicker Matt Coghlin (4) grimaces after he misses a field goal during the game against Arizona State on Sept. 14, 2019 at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans fell to the Sun Devils, 10-7.

Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

Michigan State Head Coach Mark Dantonio stood in front of a pool of reporters, exhaustion running across his face, trying to give the answer.

The 18th-ranked Spartans just lost 10-7 to Arizona State.

Dantonio knew the question would come, and eventually it did.

"Mark, on that 42-yarder, what happened from the coaching standpoint on the sideline with going for the field goal or going for a play there with 11 seconds left?" a reporter asked.

There was a ton to dissect in that 11 second window. A lot to dissect before that, too. There was a plethora of timeouts, downfield completions, penalties that were called as well as some that weren't, crunch time decision making and a review that had a role in the final outcome as well.

Let's start with 11 seconds left on the clock. First, let Dantonio explain it through his eyes.

“Initially we were going to try and take a shot to the end zone," Dantonio said. "The clock was going to run, we had no more timeouts, so we spiked it. Then the 40-second clock was running. Initially we were going to try and take a shot down there and then I said, ‘Hey, listen we need to kick it. If we catch the ball and we are not in the end zone the game is probably over. Line up and kick it.’"

"Our field goal kicker was a little late, sort of watching. He runs out, the clock is ticking down, he still makes the field goal. I'm not sure how. We had injuries on the offensive line. I think one guy stayed in. I’m not sure, I didn’t see the film. I know they reviewed it and said there was no foul. And then they reviewed it again, so I’m not sure, maybe you guys have seen it."

There was a lot more than that. And it starts a lot earlier than that too.

The madness began on the ASU 35-yard line.

The Sun Devils had a first-and-10 with only a couple of minutes remaining. Quarterback Jayden Daniels had not taken a shot downfield all game. He took what MSU's defense gave him underneath. But, he finally saw an opportunity. Defensive back Josh Butler stumbled down the sideline. That left Brandon Aiyuk wide open — an easy pitch-and-catch for a 40-yard gain inside of the Spartan 35-yard line.

Fast forward four plays later. The Sun Devils were down to their last breath, a fourth-and-13 from the MSU 28-yard line after a false start pushed the ball back five yards.

But, before the play, Dantonio used the last two of MSU's timeouts.

“I thought it was going to come down to that last series," Dantonio said. "We didn’t need the timeouts anyway because we spiked the ball to stop the clock. Also we were so concerned about the quarterback scrambling. We were trying to look at the formation that they were running and make them change that formation. So, we took the timeouts to make sure we were going to be lined up correctly."

Remember that for later.

Now, back to the field. Fourth-and-13 — this should have ended the game.

“We dropped eight, spied the quarterback so we would be able to prevent something just like that," Dantonio said. "They ran double seams and he got out on the edge.” 

Daniels gained 15 yards to extend the drive. He used his legs again on third-and-five from MSU's 8-yard line to get ASU within stretching distance of a potential upset.

“That hurt because we knew he would be the guy," Raequan Williams said. "We knew what type of quarterback they had and we have to contain him better to win that game. That’s on us.” 

Junior running back Eno Benjamin did the stretching on the next play, reaching the ball over the goal-line for a 1-yard touchdown to put the Sun Devils up 10-7.

The insanity has yet to begin.

The Spartans began their drive with under a minute to play, with an 11-yard run by Brian Lewerke — the clock was running. After two incompletions, Lewerke looked in the direction of Cody White. The pass fell incomplete, but MSU was saved by a pass interference call to move over midfield.

Still, the game hadn't reached the climax of absurdity.

Lewerke connected with Darrell Stewart Jr. on the next play for 25 yards to get within field goal range. MSU's offense ran up to the line of scrimmage and spiked the ball.

Ready for the madness? Because here it is.

“We have the play to Darrell, I look to the sideline, I was saying, ‘Kill.’," Lewerke said. "Obviously, clock is going to be running and there's going to be 15 seconds left."

Eleven seconds remained. With the play-clock running, MSU was indecisive. On Lewerke's account, offensive coordinator Brad Salem called down a play. But, Dantonio wanted the field goal.

“We had 11 seconds left so, we could’ve maybe run a play to get a little closer field goal," Lewerke said. "Someone was saying we should’ve just spiked it again and let the play-clock reset, that probably would’ve been a good idea, but coach D sent the field goal unit on, so we got off as quick as we could."

With seconds left on the play-clock, Matt Coghlin — who already missed two field goals earlier in the game — rushed into his setup for a game-tying 42-yard field goal. Just before the clock hit zero, the snap got off, Coghlin split the uprights and sent the game into overtime.

Only, he didn't.

The play was sent to review. Not because of the time, but because, amongst the confusion, MSU had 12 men on the field. And replay confirmed it.

Coghlin got one more chance. As time expired, he tried again from 47 yards out.

The ball swerved through the air and approached the goal post.

Wide left. Upset complete.

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