When the opening play happened during Saturday’s match up between two of the top teams in the Big Ten in Ohio State (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) and Michigan State (10-1, 6-1), there was likely a feeling of dread in many of the Spartan fans’ hearts. Not only would the team’s winningest quarterback in Connor Cook not be playing, but they were in the lion’s den of the Horseshoe on a crummy weather afternoon in Columbus as major underdogs.
Yet, somehow, despite all of that, Michigan State once again lived up to its notoriety as an underdog crusader and shocked the undefeated Buckeyes with a 17-14 win on a last second field goal, ending Ohio State’s 23-game winning steak.
For the Spartans, it was textbook calibration in the final minutes as they set up the perfect drive as the clock winded down to give their sometimes uneasy kicker, Michael Geiger, the best shot at nailing a 41-yard field goal in wet and windy weather. But Geiger was clutch, all smiles before the kick, and hit his mark as time expired, giving Michigan State an edge that many analysts said probably didn’t exist – and that was before anyone even knew they would have to rely on the two backup quarterbacks for MSU in junior Tyler O’Connor and sophomore Damion Terry.
O’Connor stepped up in a way for the injured Cook that few thought possible, making his first start against the unbeaten Buckeyes and incredible odds. But the quarterback was poised, setting up his teammates for big plays on the ground in a game that was mostly fought with the Spartans running game finding incredible footing with the likes of running back Gerald Homes.
Of course, the Michigan State defense also deserves a major nod, as well, since they were able to shut down the Ohio State defense like few other teams had been able to this year, keeping the Buckeyes to just over 130 yards of total offense and forcing plenty of three-and-outs.
With their loss, the Buckeyes likely are now out of the playoff race and Michigan State poises itself to take command of the Big Ten in a possible showdown with Iowa and even a spot in the playoffs themselves, which seemed nearly out of reach after their own shocking loss to Nebraska just a few short weeks ago. Michigan Wolverines fans also now know that they will be out of contention for a spot or shot at the title, as they needed to beat an undefeated Ohio State team to be considered for a Big Ten championship game.
Just as MSU head coach Mark Dantonio had said he hoped for earlier this week, the Spartans are now back in the driver’s seat when it comes down to their ultimate fate – or so it would seem for now.