Scott Reed - Spartan Digest

Mark Dantonio: "Football is a Crazy Game"

"I don't know what you say about that," Mark Dantonio said after Michigan State's improbable victory. "You go from 10 seconds and a guy punting the ball to thinking okay this is done and then all of the sudden life gets flipped upside down and we come out on the top end of it."

Often ready and willing to offer a clever name or phrase for a play Michigan State needs for a last second victory, Mark Dantonio had nothing to offer following the Spartans shocking 27-23 win at Michigan Saturday night.

And for good reason, this wasn't exactly something a coaching staff can draw up.

"We'll think of a good, catchy name," Dantonio said. "I don't know."

Michigan tipped away a Connor Cook pass on 4th & 19 with just under two minutes to play in regulation, the Wolverines clinging to a 23-21 lead.

With the ball and just one timeout for the Spartans, Michigan ran it three times, unable to come up with the game clinching first down, forced to punt with 10 seconds remaining following a timeout.

There stood Australian punter Blake O'Neill, trying to close out a fantastic game in which he toed an 80-yard punt in the first half to completely flip the field, routinely pinning Michigan State deep in it's own territory with precision.

Just one more punt stood between Michigan and it's first win over Michigan State since 2012.

"We put all 11 guys up there and things happen," Dantonio said. "Football is a crazy game."

And crazy certainly ensued.

A low snap forced O'Neill to reach downward, the ball quickly smacking off of his cold, chapped hands and to the ground. Sending everyone from the line of scrimmage, Michigan State was on O'Neill in a flash.

Quickly trying to gain his composure, O'Neill attempted a quick punt, but the pressure from the Spartans forced him to miss the football, bouncing into the hands of Michigan State defensive back Jalen Watts-Jackson.

Watts-Jackson raced down the left sideline as his Spartan teammates led the convoy to the 15, 10, the five and barreling into the end zone as time expired.

Michigan State had won in stunning fashion, 27-23 to remain 7-0 and 3-0 in the Big Ten conference.

"I don't know what you say about that," Dantonio said. "You go from 10 seconds and a guy punting the ball to thinking okay this is done and then all of the sudden life gets flipped upside down and we come out on the top end of it."

As Dantonio explained in his post game press conference, he couldn't even tell exactly what was going on.

"I didn't know what was happening, I was with all of you," Dantonio said. "Some green, some blue just like everybody, mouths just dropped. But as we scooped it up, I thought if we could get down and maybe have one second to kick it.

"Then I saw the zeros go up and I knew we had to score and then I saw him score, so, just an incredible ending to a great football game. I think that's why football is loved so much in America."

As forever loved as this finish will be for Michigan State, Jim Harbaugh and Michigan will stand shocked, consumed with the feeling of letting one -- a big one -- get away.

Spartan senior quarterback Connor Cook completed 18-of-39 passes for 328-yards with one touchdown, all despite being sacked three times by the Wolverines' defense.

Left off the field for the final play, hoping for one more opportunity to will Michigan State to a win, Cook was still left simply stunned by the finish.

"It was pretty bizarre," Cook said. "For a game to end like that, I mean, for as long as I've been alive I've never seen a game end like that.

"The Auburn/Alabama game, but there was no way anyone who was watching this game, there was no shot for us to win and for that to happen and go down, I'm kind of lost for words."

Just like everyone else.

Although shocking to see O'Neill drop the football given the circumstances, senior defensive end Shilique Calhoun thought a chance like this was possible, however improbable it ended up being.

"He dropped the ball early on in the game and I had an opportunity to block it," Calhoun said.

"I should've dove for it, but we knew there was going to be opportunity. The thing we stressed was believe, believe in each other, believe in yourself and just keep pushing forward."

The hero of the night, Watt-Jackson, unfortunately wasn't able to ride back off to East Lansing on an assuredly giddy bus, after suffering an injury while coming up with the game winning play.

"Jalen Watts-Jackson, great job scooping it up," Dantonio said. "He either dislocated his hip or has a broken hip, he's at the hospital right now.

"On that particular play going into the end zone that's what happened or before it cause by the time I got there he was down. Outstanding play by him."

Lost in the final moments, moments that seemed to happen in slow motion for some, is the fact that Michigan, aside from squandering a tremendous opportunity, played Michigan State as tough as in recent memory.

Despite the loss, a loss that drops the Wolverines to 5-2 and 2-1 in the Big Ten, the Wolverines gave the Spartans all they could handle.

"You can't just go and throw your helmet out there, you've got to go and compete," Calhoun said. "They came ready to play and that's the good thing about it, that's the good thing about this rivalry, we knew it was going to be a great game."

As exciting as this win over Michigan is, Michigan State remained fixated on the bigger picture of this 2015 season following the game.

Seconds from disaster and potentially losing out on an opportunity to win a Big Ten title and compete in the college football playoff, Michigan State lives to play another day.

"We're 7-0, that's the most important thing in all of this, that we're 7-0 right now," Dantonio said. "We advance, 3-0 in the Big Ten conference so our dreams are kept alive and we're able to move forward."

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