The Michigan State Spartans got the miracle to end all miracles Saturday in Ann Arbor, knocking off the Michigan Wolverines 27-23 with a 38-yard touchdown return from Jalen Watts-Jackson on the final play following a botched snap to Wolverines punter Blake O'Neill.
Since there is no way to do justice to what happened in words, this is a video of the final play of the game, per Bleacher Report:
According to ESPN's Sharon Katz, Michigan State's win probability before the final play happened was 0.2 percent.
Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports provided the spectacular final image of the Michigan State players in the end zone, surrounded by a sea of maize and blue:
SB Nation's Brian Floyd tweeted out a sentiment from one sports bar that was likely being echoed in many around Ann Arbor at the end:
Special teams were the story of the game, though it appeared as though Michigan State was going to be the one undone by them.
Early in the third quarter, trailing 10-7, Michigan State ran a fake punt on 4th-and-8 from its own 31-yard line and was stopped after a gain of seven yards. Michigan took over and and went 37 yards in five plays before Sione Houma muscled into the end zone for his second score of the day.
In another key moment, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio didn't even go to his special teams unit early in the fourth quarter while trailing 20-14. On a 4th-and-10 at Michigan's 32-yard line, Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook threw an incomplete pass to Macgarrett Kings Jr.
Cook did rise to the occasion on the pass, but it went right through the hands of Kings. That decision was more justifiable than the fake punt, as Michael Geiger is just 5-of-9 on field-goal attempts this season, though he did hit his lone try from between 40 and 49 yards.
Finding cracks in the Michigan defense, Cook got the Spartans back into the game with a 74-yard completion to Trevon Pendleton, which set up a one-yard touchdown by LJ Scott to cut Michigan's lead to 23-21.
Ross Tucker of NBC Sports noted how crucial Cook was throughout the game in hostile conditions:
Cook managed to impress some of the scouts on hand, per Jeff Risdon of RealGM:
Following up on that, Jon Solomon of CBS Sports noted Cook seems to possess a clutch element as well as pinpoint accuracy that should make him a high draft pick, though his overall stat line won't show it, as the senior finished 18-of-39 with 328 yards and one touchdown.
Michigan State's defensive effort was tremendous, especially considering the talent it was playing without, per Ryan Field of Fox Sports 1:
Sticking with defense, on the Wolverines side, their shutout streak ended at an astounding 212 minutes when Scott scored from 11 yards out in the second quarter, as ESPN showed:
The Spartans turned the ball over on downs four times, including what appeared to be the last straw with 1:47 to go. It's hard to win a game under those circumstances, though this was the most unusual of endings.
There was nothing flashy about what Michigan did in the game, at least on offense. Quarterback Jake Rudock was an efficient 15-of-25 for 168 yards, while the team ran for 76 yards on 31 carries (not counting the last play), but the Wolverines executed when they had to and did everything necessary to win.
But it won't show on the scoreboard.
This was nothing short of a heavyweight fight between two talented and well-coached teams, though Dantonio will get off the hook for those questionable special teams tactics because the final score worked out in his favor.
The win over Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh did put Dantonio in exclusive company among Michigan State head coaches, per ESPN's Brett McMurphy:
Even in a losing effort, Harbaugh's impact on the Wolverines was evident, though Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk did want to give some credit to the previous regime:
The bad news for Michigan is that it has a week off before playing Minnesota on Halloween, so that's two weeks for the team to think about Saturday's ending. Harbaugh will have his players ready to go, but their execution against the Golden Gophers will be everything.
After the game, per Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com, Harbaugh addressed what the loss means for his team:
Michigan State kept its perfect record and hopes for a spot in the College Football Playoff intact. The Spartans are set up to remain that way, with games against Indiana, Nebraska and Maryland before the highly anticipated showdown with Ohio State.
Sometimes, teams win games they shouldn't. Michigan State got its game out of the way. Being able to capitalize on the moment is something the Spartans have done well, so perhaps this is their year.
Reaching into his Fresh Prince of Bel-Air bag, Dantonio summed up what happened at the end of the game, per USA Today's Dan Wolken:
Per Mike Sullivan of 97.1 The Ticket, Dantonio had a perfect response when was asked about his program earning respect following a win like this.
"Well I hope our program is validated, we've won 11 games four times, Dantonio said. "We're not the weak sisters, no pun."
Dantonio also added that he "just can't" say what happened to Michigan is unfortunate. Sympathy isn't something coaches are going to give out easily, considering they know how hard it is to win a game.
Dantonio did note that Watts-Jackson had to be taken to the hospital after the game due to a broken or dislocated hip, suffered right before the touchdown celebration began, per Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free-Press.
Per Matt Charboneau of the Detroit News, Cook puts this victory up against any that he's ever had during his time with the Spartans:
On the other side of the spectrum, per Baumgardner, Michigan defensive tackle Willie Henry just had a three-word description:
Also from Baumgardner, Harbaugh said "mistakes were made" and O'Neill should have fallen on the ball instead of trying to make a play.
O'Neill will take the brunt of the criticism, as it was a mistake, but in the moment with everything going on, it's hard to keep an eye on what the right play is.