Michigan State Football: 7 Most Distinctive Wins in the Past 3 Seasons

Tyler DavisContributor IIIMay 6, 2012

Michigan State Football: 7 Most Distinctive Wins in the Past 3 Seasons

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    Michigan State Spartans fans must have really high blood pressure since their football program has been pulling off some of the greatest moments in college football history.

    Michigan State performed some of the most epic heart-pumping moments in their history the past three seasons, so epic to the point where their head football coach had to visit the hospital for a while. Hoping that he never pulls a scare like that again, he and the Spartan nation are ready to start the 2012 season.

    Season ticket sales have been suspended in East Lansing due to the high demand from new customers overwhelming the athletic department. The fans don't hope, they "expect" the Spartans to have distinctive games this season since their schedule is loaded with great matchups.

    Here are some memorable performances the Spartans have pulled off the past three seasons that are causing fans to attack the ticket office. Some of these games were away from East Lansing, but the performances were special enough to persuade fans to buy tickets this season.

Overtime Win Against Michigan

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    When: Oct. 3, 2009

    Final: UM 20, MSU 26

    Michigan State may not be the biggest rival on Michigan's schedule, but the matchup always seems to attract a large crowd. Both teams love to battle each other for the bragging rights of the state, and every year it seems both teams have an excuse to fuel the fire in this rivalry.

    Michigan State seemed to be in control for most of the game by controlling the possession time, forcing the Michigan defense to stay in the game longer than expected. Michigan was not calling it quits that easily, as they posted a 14-point comeback in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime.

    Michigan had the first shot in overtime but was unsuccessful due to a deflected pass intercepted in the end zone by MSU cornerback Chris L. Rucker. The interception gave MSU a better shot at winning the game by simply gaining enough ground to be in field goal range. MSU running back Larry Caper had a different desire to win as he broke a tackle for a game-winning touchdown.

    This win for the Spartans was historic for their program since they have never beaten Michigan two times in a row for 42 years.

The "Little Giants" Overtime Victory over Notre Dame

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    When: Sept. 18, 2010

    Final: ND 31, MSU 34

    Michigan State and Notre Dame have been strong rivals for many decades, and the tensions between these two football programs are constantly rising due to the epic finishes committed between them. This game has never failed to attract attention, and the Spartans have contributed greatly to the excitement generated from this game.

    Notre Dame traveled to East Lansing in 2010 to face the Spartans after suffering a home loss to rival Michigan, losing by four points in an exciting game. They suffered a similar fate against the Spartans by losing in overtime when MSU punter Aaron Bates threw a fake field goal pass to MSU tight end Charlie Gantt to score a touchdown.

    Most of the game was an up-and-down roller coaster as both teams were neck-and-neck heading into the end of regulation. The "Little Giants" fake field goal was one of the best plays of the year in 2010, but it came with a price when MSU coach Mark Dantonio suffered a heart attack the same night. Today he seems to be healthy and ready to continue strengthening the Spartan football program.

Michigan State Defeats Undefeated Wisconsin

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    When: Oct. 2, 2010

    Final: UW 24, MSU 34

    Don Treadwell, who is currently a head coach for the Ohio Bobcats, was a former offensive coordinator for the Michigan State Spartans. Head coach Mark Dantonio gave Treadwell the opportunity to coach the team during the Wisconsin battle in East Lansing, while he was recovering in the hospital from a heart attack.

    The absence of coach Dantonio seemed to have no bearing on the game since the Spartans performed stout against a powerful and undefeated Wisconsin team.

    The Badgers had a good showing for most of the first half until their special teams defense broke down. Former Spartan receiver Keshawn Martin received a punt at the MSU 26-yard line and returned the punt for a touchdown, gaining 74 yards on the return.

    This big special teams play gave the Spartans the momentum they needed to maintain the lead for the rest of the game. With great defensive stops and crisp play-action passes from MSU quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Spartans played one of their most fluent games of the 2010 season.

    This win, along with the Notre Dame overtime victory, gave a new feel to the Spartan program, and ever since they have been majorly successful. Two consecutive 11-win seasons is a great accomplishment, and this victory was the most convincing win that started the trend.

4th Quarter Comeback Against Purdue

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    When: Nov. 20, 2010

    Final: Purdue 31, MSU 35

    Michigan State was entering this game after their scheduled bye week, while only having one loss in their season. The Spartans were highly favored to win since they had multiple advantages coming into this game. They were at home for their Senior Day game with a healthy roster from the bye week.

    The Boilermakers new they were underdogs coming into this game; however, the majority of the game they never seemed to be fazed by the advantages against them. They led by halftime with eight points and kept their momentum through the third quarter, taking the lead by 15 points.

    The Boilermakers also scored a 52-yard field goal in the fourth quarter by placekicker Carson Wiggs, which unfortunately for them was the last time they put points on the board.

    Once the fourth quarter came around the Spartans stole the show, making huge defensive plays and turnovers to come back into the game. They brought the lead down to three points with an interception to set up a touchdown, followed with a successful two-point conversion.

    Shortly after the touchdown, the Spartans blocked and secured a punt inside the 5-yard line in Purdue territory to set up the game-winning touchdown.

    Michigan State went on to beat Penn State the next week to secure a share of the Big Ten trophy with Wisconsin and Ohio State. The loss at Kinnick Stadium against Iowa caused the Spartans to lose out on a tiebreaker to represent the Big Ten in the BCS Rose Bowl. This decision made the Spartans face SEC member Alabama for the Capital One Bowl in Orlando Florida.    

First Victory over Ohio State in 12 Years

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    When: Oct. 1, 2011

    Final: MSU 10, OSU 7

    Michigan State traveled to Columbus, Ohio for the first time since 2007 and came away with their first victory at Ohio since 1998. The Spartans have been through a troubling past with the Buckeyes record-wise, for this game was the only win the Spartans posted against OSU for the past decade.

    The Spartans scored a touchdown in the first quarter of the game, and surprisingly it was the only touchdown earned in the entire game until Ohio State scored on a pass within the final minutes of regulation.

    The Spartans attempted a successful field goal, which happened to be the winning points in the game. After the Buckeyes scored their game-saving touchdown, they attempted an onside kick to extend their chances, but failed to recover the ball.

    Ohio State went on to have one of their most frustrating years in college football after this loss. The Buckeyes were within reach of a victory for most of their games in 2011, only to fall short in the end. As for Michigan State this win was a stimulant for their season, especially since they came to Ohio with a loss from Notre Dame the week before.

The "Rocket Play" Win Against Wisconsin

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    When: Oct. 22, 2011

    Final: UW 31, MSU 37

    ESPN's "College GameDay" had itself a remarkable matchup in East Lansing when Wisconsin and Michigan State clashed in October. Wisconsin was determined to be the team that could possibly represent the Big Ten in the BCS National Championship, but once again, the Spartans handed the Badgers their first loss of the season, only this time with a historical "Hail Mary" finish.

    Wisconsin struck early in the game by posting two touchdowns within the first seven minutes of the half. The Badgers had 14 offensive plays committed before the Spartans even had two, and this was due to Edwin Baker's forced fumble by Wisconsin from the very first play of scrimmage.

    It would seem that the Spartans would have been demoralized early in the game, but instead they were resilient and posted big plays of their own.

    The Spartans defense forced Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson to commit intentional grounding inside their own end zone, giving the Spartans two points for a safety. Shortly after the safety the Spartans scored their first touchdown with a double-end around play to cut the deficit into five points.

    The Spartans defense remained dominant, as they posted a blocked field goal plus a blocked punt for a touchdown before halftime.

    The play of the game was near as the Spartans had the final possession of the second half. The Badgers posted a great comeback to force a potential overtime; however, the Spartans marched down the field on their last offensive drive and produced one of the most memorable plays in the 2011 season.

    MSU quarterback Kirk Cousins received a shotgun snap and drifted to the right side of the field to throw a pass towards the end zone. The ball was thrown right to MSU receiver B.J. Cunningham, but bounced off his helmet back into the playing field.

    MSU receiver Keith Nichol was magically in the right place to catch the ball and push forward just enough to break the plane of the end zone. The play was considered dead at the 2-yard line. However, the play was heavily reviewed, and the officials claimed the ball did penetrate the end zone good enough for the Spartans to score the winning touchdown.

    The nation will remember this game as of the best instant-classic finishes in Big Ten history, and once again, it was this matchup that fueled the season for the Spartans as it did in 2010.

Triple Overtime Outback Bowl Win over Georgia

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    When: Jan. 2, 2012

    Final: MSU 33, UGA 30

    The 2012 Outback Bowl featured two of the best defensive teams in the nation battling for a win after losing their respective conference championship games. The game turned out to be exactly what was expected, as both teams had a defensive feast all four quarters of the game plus three overtimes.

    It was actually defense that decided the winner of this game, and Michigan State was the team to execute the winning play. MSU defensive tackle Anthony Rashad White blocked a 47-yard field goal attempt to give the Spartans their first bowl win since 2001.

    The game started out rough for the Spartans as Georgia forced a safety on the first play of scrimmage, following with two touchdowns to lead the game by 16 at halftime. One of the touchdowns against the Spartans was a punt return executed by Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin just before first half ended.

    The game started to look one-sided by halftime, but the Spartans had a much-needed break in the action to get their defense refueled and their offense adjusted.

    Michigan State scored two touchdowns to cut the lead down to two points by forcing two turnovers. Both turnovers were interceptions, the first one giving the Spartans their first scoring drive as the other was returned for a touchdown by MSU cornerback Darqueze Dennard.

    From there it was a neck-to-neck defensive battle as both teams scored up to 27 points each by the end of regulation.

    The game became really interesting when overtime started. Both teams had unfortunate plays in the first overtime as Michigan State threw an interception and Georgia missed a field goal to win. Both teams scored a field goal in the second overtime to continue the game, which led to Michigan State claiming the victory in the third overtime by succeeding with their field goal attempt and blocking Georgia's.

    This bowl win ended the Spartan season on a good note, but coach Dantonio still craves a Rose Bowl bid. This victory has set the bar for the 2012 season as well as the excitement for the University and fans.