The Wildcats had just taken what appeared to be an insurmountable lead when C.J. Bacher hit Shaun Herbert from 5-yards out to go up 38-3 with 9:54 in the third quarter, but the Spartans somehow managed to pull together and begin their stunning comeback.
After holding Northwestern to three-and-out, A.J. Jimmerson scored on a 4-yard run capping an eight play, 53-yard drive to make it 38-17.
The Spartan comeback appeared doomed when Tyrell Sutton busted a 54-yard run to set the Wildcats up at the Michigan State 10-yard line, but linebacker Kaleb Thornhill intercepted Bacher's attempt to hit Sutton in the endzone, preserving the MSU comeback bid with the touchback.
Northwestern defensive end Corey Wooten delivered a big hit out of bounds on Stanton, knocking him out of the game and drawing an unnecessary roughness penalty, bringing on backup Brian Hoyer.
When the Spartans defense stiffened and sent Northwestern to another three-and-out, the MSU special teams came up with the key play of the ballgame.
Another three-and out, Stanton shook off his shoulder injury and immediately ran for a first down and then four plays later ran in from five yards out, culminating a seven play, 60 yard drive to cut the Northwestern margin to seven points with 7:24 remaining.
MSU's David Stanton and Thornhill caved in the Northwestern offensive line forcing a third consecutive three-and-out. Stanton then capped the comeback while running for his life with Wooten in close pursuit, hit the freshman Williams in the right corner of the endzone, tying the score. Safety Travis Key baited Bacher into throwing an interception setting up Swenson's heroics.
"I knew I was going to get it," said Key of his interception that set up the game-winning field goal. "The (receiver), when the quarterback looked at him looked wide open and I knew he was going to try to lay it up there."
Key jumped the route and Michigan State had the pivotal play. MSU's David Herron, Jr. said MSU never gave up, even when down by 35.
"[When] we still got the interception in the end zone, that brought energy to ourselves, to the whole team and everybody just kept believing," said Herron, Jr.
"It hasn't really sunk in yet," said MSU quarterback Drew Stanton on the historic comeback. "I think it was just a testament of this team working hard. As things started to progress and the gap kind of closed between the score, I think more guys started believing and wanting to make plays. You know, I think the big thing we saw today was how effective we can be when we play together as a team."
Stanton finished the day 27-of-37 for 294 yards and two touchdowns against 1 interception.