Every Saturday this season, the University of Wisconsin had been the most confident football team on the field. All season long they had the mettle of a champion.
Saturday, however, Michigan State hit them in the mouth and kept on swinging.
The Spartans running game bludgeoned the Badgers an their defense derailed UW's attack at key points in the game.
But it was the one-yard line that painted a portrait of Wisconsin's fizzled dreams of championship glory.
With the score tied at 14-14 in the second quarter, UW punter Ken DeBauche pinned the Spartans at their one-yard line. Michigan State's response? An eight-play, 99-yard drive that took just 2:36 off the game clock and gave the Spartans a 21-14 lead.
Michigan State still lead by that margin when the Badgers found themselves with first and goal at the MSU one with about a minute left in the first half. Michigan State's response? A goal-line stand that helped put an end to Wisconsin's season-long winning streak.
"We had four chances at it and they took a lot of the momentum right there and ran with it," junior tight end Owen Daniels said.
"I think when stuff like that happens you really have to pull together as a team and collectively just grab the momentum back some how," senior tailback Anthony Davis said. "I'm not sure if we did that."
A nine-yard Davis run gave the Badgers a second-and-one at the Michigan State two-yard line, but five plays and an instant replay later, the Spartans had held UW out of the end zone and taken over possession just inches from the goal line.
Davis ran for 126 yards on 19 first-half carries, but he was denied a trip to the end zone on three runs just before halftime. On second-and-one, he picked up one yard and the first down to make it first-and-goal at the one. The Badgers gave it back to him on the ensuing play, but he was stopped just shy of the goal line.
After a timeout with 27 seconds left, Wisconsin tried quarterback John Stocco on a keeper off right guard but defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson blew through the line and stunned Stocco, who stumbled to his left and hit the turf around the initial line of scrimmage.
The Badgers then used their last timeout of the half and called Stocco's number again, running a play-action roll out pass to the right. Quick pressure, however, forced Stocco to rush a throw to Tony Paciotti, which fell harmlessly incomplete.
Without hesitation Wisconsin went for it on fourth down, but Davis was upended in the hole and twirled to the ground shy of the line. That play was not without contention, though. On television replays it appeared that Davis' left arm—where he was carrying the ball—cleared the goal line while he was in midair. The referees reviewed it, though, and upheld the call on the field.
"I thought we had it in when we ran it to the right side too, I think two or three plays before that," Morgan Davis said.
"I'm always one to say, ‘don't give them a chance to have to use the replay.' I would prefer to just get in,'" Anthony Davis said.
Adding insult to injury: after a 21-point second-half MSU onslaught, UW tailback Booker Stanley was stuffed on a fourth-and-goal run from the one-yard line.
Michigan State's response? A second 99-yard drive, this one salting away a 49-14 victory.