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Swenson's boot with :07 lifts Spartans over Badgers, 25-24
East Lansing, MI - Wisconsin held Javon Ringer, the FBS's leading rusher in 2008, to just 52 yards and out-rushed the Spartans 281 yards to 25 overall, but QB Brian Hoyer stepped things up for Michigan State (8-2,5-1) passing for 252 yards despite many dropped passes, and the Spartans overcame a 24-13 deficit in the fourth quarter to win by one to finish the day alone in second place in the Big Ten. Ringer scored on two short TD runs, but it was Brett Swenson's FGs of 50 and 44 yards in the final quarter that put the Spartans past the Badgers (4-5, 1-4). For Collegefootballfan.com, it was our first non-Penn State, Big Ten game as well as our first game in Michigan, no less East Lansing. As the Spartan Stadium public address announcer exclaimed right before the opening kick-off, it was a "beautiful day for football"! As Chris Schenkel always used to say on ABC College Football, "There's no better way to spend an Autumn afternoon!"
Wisconsin took a 10-6 lead into halftime. TE Grant Graham hauled in a 1-yard TD pass on a well executed roll-out from Dustin Scherer in the first period. Swenson booted a 27-yarder and a 21-yarder in the second for MSU, and Philip Welch knocked in three more for the Badgers from 31 with :07 remaining in the first half.
P.J. Hill, who ran for 106 yards on the day, ran the ball in from the ten to increase Wisconsin's lead, 17-6, but Michigan State retaliated with a 62-yard drive with Ringer taking it in from the two. Hill's running mate, John Clay, who had 111 rushing yards, galloped away on his longest run of the day for a 32-yard TD run in the fourth to extend the Badger lead back to 11 points. Momentum swung a little bit back to MSU when the Badger sideline got flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike call following a sideline warning. It put the Spartans at the 44. A long pass to Blair White (7 catches for 161 yards) set up a 2-yard Ringer TD. The two-point try to White fell incomplete to make the score, 24-19. An 18-yard sack forced Wisconsin to punt on its next series. Swenson, who was 0 for 3 against Michigan the week before, nailed a 50-yard FG with 5:16 left to close the gap, 24-22. The Badgers drove deep into Spartan territory, but two consecutive penalties on third and one set them back to punt at the MSU 41. With 1:19 remaining and no time-outs left, State took over on their own 18. A 20-yard pass to White took them to the 38. On third and ten, Hoyer connected with White again to the Wisconsin 30. The drive stalled at the UW 27 where Swenson lined up for the game-winner. UW's Bret Bielema called two consecutive time-outs to "ice" the Junior, but when was the last time anyone saw that work? Swenson relaxed and kicked through the winning FG to defeat Wisconsin, 25-24.
The Big Ten is definitely not a great conference this year, but the Spartans, ranked 18th, and Badgers played an exciting game for our first visit to Spartan Stadium!
Extra points: I hooked up with Adam Kalmbach and his wife Christie, their family, and friends for an early morning tailgate featuring beer and chili among other good stuff before the 12 noon kick-off. Adam and Christie are both MSU grads and it was the first time they took their kids, Addison and Aubrey, 6 and 4, to their first Spartan game. They lasted until two minutes remained in the game! Great effort! They gave me a short walking tour and drove around the campus to show the newer part of campus, the old campus, and "Sparty". It's a beautiful sprawling campus of 5,200 acres, the first land-grant university started primarily as an agricultural institution.
MSU receivers dropped at least five or six catchable passes, but on the other hand, the Badgers had about the same number of interference calls. They were flagged 12 times for 121 yards as opposed to MSU's 2 for 30.
State went to the no-huddle offense pretty effectively once they realized the Badgers were holding Ringer in check. The got into position for Swenson's first FG, but then abandoned the plan until later in the game. Maybe the dropped passes caused Coach Mark Dantonio to change the strategy. Last time we saw him coach a team, his Cincinnati Bearcats ended Army's 19-game losing streak in 2004!
Duffy Daugherty is still the all-time winningest coach for Michigan State with his 109 victories from 1954-1972. The Duffy Daugherty Football Building was expanded on campus by 25,000 sq. ft. this summer for new coaches offices and team meeting rooms.
The Michigan State band dedicated their halftime show to dance tunes and encouraged the 75,212 to participate in the stands, but the highlight of the show was the band's great dance routine to Michael Jackson's "Thriller!" It was great. I just can't believe that was a hit 25 years ago!