About 20 years from now, Michigan State fans and alumni will be telling the tale of the Spartans stunning, last second comeback win over Michigan in Ann Arbor. Michigan fans and alumni will be their shaking heads wondering how their beloved Wolverines gave away a game they should have won.
Up 23-21 with just 10 seconds left, the Wolverines seemingly had victory in their grasp and all punter Blake O’Neill had to do was just kick the ball away. But everything went painfully wrong for Michigan.
O’Neill fielded a low-snap, but instead of just falling on it, he attempted to kick it. He was swarmed under by the Spartans specials team unit. The ball wound up in the hands of sophomore Jalen Watts-Jackson who took it 38 yards for the winning touchdown to give the Spartans a victory when everything seemed lost.
It was complete bedlam in Ann Arbor as Michigan State players mobbed Watts-Jackson in the end zone to the point where he injured his hip during the celebration and was carted off the field.
Spartans players climbed into the stands and hugged anybody wearing a Michigan State sweat, jacket or baseball cap. The Paul Bunyan Trophy had a Michigan State helmet on its head.
The stunning turn of events in this year’s Michigan-Michigan State game is reminiscent of Auburn’s “Kick Six” back in 2013 when the Tigers scored a touchdown a missed field goal to beat Alabama and in 1982 Cal defeated Stanford with time running out on a series of laterals on a kick-off return for a touchdown. In college football lore, it is known as “The Play.”
You could also compare this last-second Michigan State win to a number of great last-second plays in the history of college football. In 1984, there was the “Hail Flutie” when Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie hit wide receiver Gerard Phelan for a 48-yard touchdown pass with time running out to defeat then-defending national champion Miami.
Now the one thing you notice is that the one thing all those big plays have in common is that they all have their own unique nicknames. In the case of Cal-Stanford, “The Play,” the video of that game gets shown over and over game on ESPN or even FoxSports 1.
So what do you call what just happened in Ann Arbor this past weekend?
Perhaps the best nickname for this game courtesy of quarterback Connor Cook’s reaction when ESPN put a camera in from of him while he was celebrating with Spartans fans in the stands of Michigan Stadium.
“What the Hell just happened?,” Cook asked.
What Cook said brings out the true character of this game was all about. Michigan led this game for 59- minutes and 50 seconds. All O’Neill had to do was field the ball and kick it. It’s not that O’Neill is a bad punter. Earlier in the game, O’Neill pinned the Spartans back on their two-yard line on an 80-yard punt.
Another reason for “What the Hell Just Happened” was the look of apoplectic shock by Michigan fans, who were about to celebrate their first win over Michigan State since 2012. The Spartans never led in the game until they scored the touchdown to win it.
There were a lot of Michigan State fans that probably turned the game off when the Spartans exhausted all their timeouts and the Wolverines had the ball to run out the clock. I’m sure that Michigan State fans were wondering about happened as well when they heard the good news their team had come away with an improbable win.