Wisconsin vs. Michigan State: Breaking Down the Spartans' Miracle Finish

Jayson LoveCorrespondent IOctober 23, 2011

EAST LANSING, MI - OCTOBER 22:  Kirk Cousins #8 of the Michigan State Spartans throws a pass in the third quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Spartan Stadium on October 22, 2011 in East Lansing, Michigan. The Spartans defeated the Badgers 37-31 on the final play of the game.  (Photo by Mark Cunningham/Getty Images)
Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

In what was perhaps the game of the season thus far, the Michigan State Spartans used a miracle finish to pull off the major upset over the BCS No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers.

After initially trailing 14-0, the Spartans answered with a safety and a 34-yard touchdown on a reverse by Keeshawn Martin, cutting the Badgers' lead to 14-9. 

MSU then closed the first half strong, scoring with less than a minute to go to forge ahead 23-14 after its special teams came up with a huge play, a blocked punt that turned into a touchdown when Bennie Fowler recovered in the end zone.

That seemed like it may be the game's biggest play, but it was just an appetizer of what was to come in the second half.

Russell Wilson did his usual spectacular performance pulling the Badgers from behind, setting up a score when he scrambled to find Montee Ball to tie the game at 31 with just under 90 seconds remaining in the game.

The game appeared headed for overtime when MSU was only able to drive to the 44-yard line of Wisconsin with only four seconds remaining.

But quarterback Kirk Cousins and the Spartans weren't done.

Cousins took the snap, rolled out to his right and back-pedalled to the MSU 55-yard line. He launched a Hail Mary pass into the Badgers' end zone.

With shades of Kordell Stewart to Russell Westbrook to beat Michigan in 1994, the Spartans came down with the ball when Keith Nichol grabbed the deflection at the 1-yard line.

Initially, the play was ruled down at the 1-yard line, and unlike 1994, officials were able to utilize replay to get the call right.

Similar to the Stewart-to-Westbrook play, where the ball was deflected by another Colorado player, this ball deflected off of another Spartan player in the end zone before entering the hands of Nichol, who was able to lean his body into the end zone for the improbable game-winning score.

Stewart, you may remember, had to heave the ball over 70 yards, and the play actually called for a deflection—it was supposed to be Westbrook deflecting the ball to Blake Anderson.

This play however, as the video shows, was a flood play where MSU was hopeful that among the gauntlet of hands and bodies, an MSU player would come down with the ball—and that is exactly what happened.

When the officials went to replay, the side-view camera clearly shows that Nichol was able to get the ball over the goal line after snatching it out of the air.

Although unplanned, the end-zone deflection, which appeared to ricochet off the Spartan's B.J. Cunningham, could not have bounced any better for MSU.

It went softly up into the air and right into Nichol's grasp, giving MSU the upset victory and stunning the college football world.