Senior running back Jeremy Langford scored with 28 seconds left, putting the final score in place and sealing Michigan State’s sixth win in its past seven meeting with Michigan.
When asked about the decision to keep running the ball instead of kneeling down late, coach Mark Dantonio and players said it was a response to a moment a few hours earlier just before kickoff when Michigan players planted what was described as a stake in the turf at Spartan Stadium.
”Putting a stake down in our backyard out here and coming out like there like they’re all that, it got shoved the last minute and a half and we were not going to cool off of it,” Dantonio said. “I was gonna line up and kick a field goal, but if our guys could get it in, we were going to get it in.”
So when Dantonio saw Michigan loading the box against the run, he decided to keep running the ball figuring a play would break open.
“I just felt like we needed to put a stake in them at that point,” he said.
As for the stake that was planted by Michigan before the game, it came shortly after the Wolverines came onto the field. Sophomore offensive tackle Jack Conklin said he saw it happen – as did the whole MSU sideline – and it was planted around the 35-yard line on the north side of Spartan Stadium.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke said he was “aware that something happened, but not fully aware.”
”I heard that a young man put a stake in the ground,” Hoke said.
Conkin said that seeing it happen just added fuel to the fire for Michigan State and stuck in the back of the Spartans' minds.
“These guys want to come into the woodshed and disrespect it like that," he said. ”We were going to play the game and stay composed as much as possible, but it definitely angered us.”
Both quarterback Connor Cook and Mark Dantonio said it was just an example of disrespect by Michigan toward Michigan State.
“We weren’t having that,” Cook said. “If we had the ball, we were trying to score.”
Dantonio brought up a previous example that served to fuel the rivalry in his first season.
”You can only be diplomatic about it for so long,” Dantonio said. “The little brother stuff, all the disrespect. It doesn’t have to go in that direction. We have tried to handle ourselves with composure. That doesn’t come from the coach. It comes from the program.”
Junior cornerback Trae Waynes said he just laughed when he saw the stake planted in the turf, referring to it as Michigan just seeking attention and saying "it's what you expect from them" and it was not surprising.
“I saw it, but it’s just them being them,” Waynes said. “We don’t really need to go into that, but if they want to use that to hype themselves up, they can.
”We know what we’ve gotta do and we are going to do our talking on the field. We made a statement at the end of the game.”