There was no shame in losing to the latter two, but the loss in between to Illinois was unforgivable. Still, their head coach John L. Smith had said, this MSU team was different. This team would circle the wagons, go on the road and beat Northwestern.
Now there they were and senior linebacker David Herron Jr., had seen enough of it. "I pulled the defense together and I was like, 'Hey man, the only people we got is us. We just have to believe, believe in each other.' And that's what the team did. They came out and played good ball in the second half."
That's not exactly Knute Rockne type stuff and MSU's defense gave up two more TDs before finally taking Herron up on his challenge. MSU sent NU on a three-and-out, then got Kaleb Thornhill's interception. A second Wildcat three-and-out was followed by Devin Thomas' block punt and the Wildcats never got another first down.
"We couldn't have done it as an offense without our defense and our special teams," said MSU senior center Kyle Cook. "Hats off to our defense because we couldn't have done it without them. If we would have come out staying lackadaisical and played the second half like the first, you know we obviously wouldn't have had the opportunity to score like we did in the second half."
Sensing that MSU had saved their season, Cook repeated, "Hats off to the defense for stepping up and actually coming out and playing hard, giving us the opportunity."