Saturday, July 11, 2020

Top 10 moments of the decade for Spartan Athletics

December 6, 2019
	<p>Senior wide receiver Keith Nichol catches a tipped ball which he took to the endzone for the win over the Badgers. The Spartans defeated Wisconsin, 37-31, on Saturday night at Spartan Stadium. Josh Radtke/The State News</p>

Senior wide receiver Keith Nichol catches a tipped ball which he took to the endzone for the win over the Badgers. The Spartans defeated Wisconsin, 37-31, on Saturday night at Spartan Stadium. Josh Radtke/The State News

Photo by Josh Radtke/The State News | The State News

The 2010’s are coming to a close in a few short weeks. In that time, Michigan State athletics have been one of the most successful programs in the entire country. That success has produced some rather incredible moments that fans will never forget. We recount, reminisce, and rank some of the best Michigan State moments in the last decade.

10. Miles Bridges returns to East Lansing

Miles Bridges, after being named Big Ten Freshman of the year, was expected to enter his name in the the NBA Draft the following summer. Bridges was a sure-fire lottery pick because of his athleticism and NBA frame. Then, Bridges shocked the world when he announced that he would return for his sophomore year to compete for a title.  

When he returned, Bridges invited fans out to the Spartan Statue, where he stated that season’s mantra: “It’s not about me, it’s about us.” While his return did not produce the results that many expected, his unselfishness to return to East Lansing made Miles Bridges an instant fan favorite. 

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9. Little Giants

MSU football Head Coach Mark Dantonio has been under scrutiny as of late due to the team’s poor play, but there is a reason he still is the head coach. It is because of nights like these. In the battle of the megaphone trophy, the Spartans had a chance to tie it with an overtime field goal, but the gutsy play call from Dantonio had Aaron Bates find a wide-open Charlie Gantt for a touchdown on a fake field goal attempt.  

8. Korie Lucious sends Maryland home

With Kalin Lucas down with an injury, it seemed all hope was lost. The Spartans were taking on a Maryland team with a load of talent including future NBA point guard Greivis Vasquez. In the last forty seconds of the game, the lead changed three times. With the clock running down, guard Korie Lucious, filling in for Lucas, drilled a three as the buzzer sounded off, sending Michigan State to the Sweet Sixteen. That shot from Lucious still haunts many Maryland fans to this day. 

7. Historic Cotton Bowl Comeback

Down 41-21 to the Baylor Bears, the game seemed well in hand. Then the Spartans flipped the switch.

After scoring two touchdowns, the Spartans were back in the game with 4:55 remaining. However, Baylor drove down the field all the way to the 27-yard line and had a chance to make it a two-possession game. Then the special teams came through with a blocked field goal, and the return (with the help of one of the biggest blocks in MSU history by Tony Lippett) gave the Spartans life. Connor Cook and the MSU offense drove to the goal line and had four chances to score with thirty-three seconds left. A pass from Cook to wide receiver Keith Mumphrey gave the Spartans the lead and the win.

6. Kirk Cousins connects with Keith Nichol

Michigan State football seemed to have a flair for the dramatic for a few years. With enough time for one Hail Mary heave to the end zone, Kirk Cousins launched the ball from midfield. Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis batted the ball into the hands of Keith Nichol for a touchdown. Or did he? The referee at the goal line ruled that he was down before crossing the goal line, but after further review, the catch was ruled a touchdown and the fans stormed the field.

Mark Dantonio dubbed this play “Rocket."

5. 2015 NCAA Tournament run

Yes, Head Coach Tom Izzo has always made incredible runs in tournaments, but this one was perhaps one of the most impressive, and one of the most special. Coming into the tournament as a seven seed, the Spartans were expected to be a quick out this time in March. However, the trio of Denzel Valentine, Travis Trice and Branden Dawson didn’t see it that way.

MSU defeated Georgia in the first round as expected, but then they faced the defensive behemoth in Virginia. The Spartans were not phased as they took down the two seed Virginia, then Oklahoma and Louisville on their way to the Final Four when they were demolished by Duke. While this run wasn’t the most successful of Izzo’s career, it was by far one of the easiest teams to like and to cheer for as a fan.

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4. LJ Scott and the twenty-two play drive

Not since the days of coaches Clarence “Biggie” Munn and Duffy Daughtery had the green and white been in position to possibly play for a National Title. In a Big Ten title where if you win, you’re in for the playoff, Iowa and Michigan State squared off in a game that looked like it was from the time of Munn and Daughtery. With just over nine and a half minutes to go, the Michigan State offense took the field trailing by four. In twenty-two plays, LJ Scott received fourteen carries and spun his way into the end zone to give the Spartans their first ever playoff appearance.

3. Duke Takedown

Duke came into this Elite Eight matchup with one of the best recruiting classes since the Fab Five era in Michigan. However, even with Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish, they were no match for Cassius Winston and the Spartans. With thirty-five seconds remaining, former walk on and senior forward Kenny Goins drilled a three pointer over the future 1st Overall pick after struggling all day to give the Spartans the lead. A gritty defensive possession led to Winston dashing away with the basketball to give Michigan State another Final Four berth.

2. 100th Rose Bowl

In their first Rose Bowl since 1988, the Spartans took on the Stanford Cardinal in the 100th Rose Bowl. Even with the suspension of Max Bullough, the Spartans were able to take the lead in the fourth quarter thanks to a touchdown reception from Tony Lippett.

However, this was a day that was defined by the defense. Filling in for the suspended Max Bullough, senior Kyler Elsworth leaped over the line of scrimmage to stop Stanford on a fourth down. This game was more than just a Rose Bowl win, it proved that the Spartan football team was a force to be reckoned with.

1.“Woah he has trouble with the snap!”

The title says it all. While this play may not have been as big of a win as the Duke tournament game or the Rose Bowl, Michigan residents will forever remember this game. The internet was sprawling with faces of disappointed Michigan fans and Spartans fans had a punchline against their friends from Ann Arbor forever.

There were many different moments that could have made this list, but these moments were the ones that defined Michigan State in the last decade. While the last couple months have been tough with a disappointing football season and a slow start for basketball, there is no doubt that this decade of Spartan Athletics had its fair share of memorable moments.

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