After four weeks straight of losing, Michigan State finally found a way to win in front of the homecoming crowd. Naturally, it didn’t come easily.
Redshirt junior quarterback Payton Thorne found redshirt senior Jayden Reed for a 37-yard touchdown reception in double overtime to finally secure the win and break the losing streak.
The first half was a relatively evenly contested affair, as Wisconsin held a slim 145-144 advantage in yardage. However, Michigan State went into the locker room trailing 14-7, thanks in large part to some poorly timed penalties. The Spartans were penalized six times for 67 yards through 30 minutes.
Michigan State’s only points of the first half were earned following a turnover deep in Wisconsin territory. Dropping back in coverage, junior linebacker Jacoby Windmon lept in front of the receiver and snatched Mertz’s pass for an interception at the Badgers' 12-yard line. Redshirt sophomore running back Jalen Berger made the visitors pay on the ensuing drive, finding the end zone on a 12-yard touchdown run.
Unsurprisingly, Michigan State let up a touchdown on its first defensive series of the game. To add insult to injury, the Spartans' defense had a shot to end the drive quickly with a third and long after a sack from redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Simeon Barrow. Wisconsin still converted.
The defense had one more shot to stymie the Badgers’ drive. After three consecutive stops within the five-yard line, Wisconsin elected to go for it on fourth-and-one. The gamble paid off thanks to running back Braelon Allen, who punched it in to take an early lead.
The Badgers’ second scoring drive of the first half was also punctuated by a one-yard touchdown run from Allen, following a bruising nine-play, 75-yard drive.
The Spartans’ second offensive drive of the afternoon looked promising. Redshirt senior wide receiver Jayden Reed looked more like his old self, notching a pair of receptions to put the offense in Wisconsin territory. The rushing attack also started to come alive, thanks in large part to some shifty runs from redshirt senior Elijah Collins.
However, things fell apart once again for MSU at the goal line. After a six-yard rush from Berger put MSU at the one-yard line, the offense failed to gain a single yard on the next two downs, giving the ball back to the Badgers.
After a decent showing through the first 30 minutes, Michigan State’s defense clamped down in the second half. The unit opened the third quarter by forcing a third-and-out and a punt.
Pinned down at its own three-yard line after a well-placed Wisconsin punt, Michigan State’s offense moved 93 yards in just eight plays. Thorne found redshirt sophomore tight end Maliq Carr open at the 35. The six-foot-five tight end put on the burners, blazing past defenders and breaking a pair of tackles to set up the Spartans at Wisconsin’s 12-yard line. Collins capped off the drive at the goal line with a one-yard touchdown, knotting up the game at 14-14.
Michigan State’s next touchdown came courtesy of sophomore wide receiver Keon Coleman. After a pass interference call on the Badgers set up the offense just outside the redzone, Thorne spotted Coleman in man coverage just outside the end zone. The sophomore receiver corralled the pass and fell forward to take a 21-14 lead.
Wisconsin tied things up right after the Spartans’ scoring drive. Earning chunk yardage through efficient passes and rumbling runs, the Badgers offense battled its way to Michigan State’s goal line. Facing a fourth and goal on MSU’s three-yard line, Mertz found Keontez Lewis in the corner of the end zone to bring the game even.
Michigan State’s final drive of regulation showed plenty of promise. With just a couple of minutes left, Thorne and his receivers were connecting for what looked like a drive that would end in a game winning field goal. However, at around the 30-yard line, the coaching staff confusingly started playing for a field goal. Running the ball multiple times, the Spartans were forced to use all three timeouts to conserve time. That over usage of timeouts forced Michigan State to go hurry-up with the field goal on fourth down. The snap didn’t come out cleanly and the Spartans came up empty.
Heading into overtime, Michigan State’s offense went to work immediately. A trick play put the ball into Reed’s hands, as Coleman blitzed his way to the endzone. Reed tossed up a 50/50 ball to Coleman, who came up with an incredible catch to take an early lead.
The Spartans had multiple chances to end the game on Wisconsin’s first possession. A terrible pass from Mertz was nearly picked off by two separate MSU defenders and the defense had a chance to get off the field on third down. However, Mertz found a way to keep things alive with a touchdown pass.
Wisconsin had the ball first in the second overtime. Windmon forced a fumble on the very first play, ending the Badgers’ possession and setting up the offense for the win.
After a pair of plays gained meager yardage, Payton Thorne heaved a deep ball to a streaking Reed on third down. The star receiver came down with the pass and secured a double overtime win for Michigan State.
The win puts Michigan State at 3-3 heading into the bye week.
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