BTN.com staff, October 22, 2011
(AP) Keith Nichol caught a 44-yard Hail Mary on the game's final play for a tiebreaking touchdown, giving No. 15 Michigan State a stunning 37-31 win over No. 4 Wisconsin on Saturday night. With the game tied and 4 seconds left, Kirk Cousins rolled out to his right and threw one last pass. The ball went into the end zone but caromed off a Michigan State receiver back to Nichol, who caught it just outside the end zone and struggled for the goal line, fighting two Wisconsin defenders. The former backup quarterback was initially ruled short of the end zone, but officials overturned the call after a review, giving the Spartans (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) the win and knocking the Badgers (6-1, 2-1) from the ranks of the unbeaten. Read the full AP recap, see the box score and check out our Big Ten scoreboard.
FINAL: Things looked grim for Michigan State (5-1) early on, but the Spartans stormed back to clinch the victory. Michigan State climbed back from an early 14-point deficit to pull off the comeback. Defense was an afterthought, as both teams lit up the scoreboard. The teams went wild on the attacking side of the ball, racking up 844 total yards combined. The Spartans' Kirk Cousins went 22 of 31 through the air for a total of 290 yards. Cousins finished the game with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Cousins looked for B.J. Cunningham often. He caught six passes for 102 yards and one touchdown. Michigan State racked up 398 total yards. The Spartans' rushing attack contributed 108 yards on 32 carries in addition to Cousins' passing effort. Russell Wilson threw for 223 yards while going 14-22 for the Badgers. He threw two touchdowns and two interceptions. Wilson also ran for 32 yards on seven attempts. Jared Abbrederis was the player Wilson targeted most often. He hauled in six catches for 91 yards. Wisconsin's offense finished the game having gained 446 yards. In addition to Wilson's efforts through the air, the Badgers also rushed 40 times for 223 yards.
THIRD QUARTER: Michigan State continue to lead, although Wisconsin added a field goal to make it 23-17 at the end of the third quarter. The Spartans' front seven stepped up in the quarter, allowing the Badgers to gain just 18 rushing yards. A 58-yard drive that ended when Philip Welch kicked a 33-yard field goal helped Wisconsin narrow the deficit to 23-17. Michigan State will start the fourth quarter with the ball on the Badgers' 32-yard line.
SECOND QUARTER: At one point Michigan State trailed by 14 points, but the Spartans have come back to take a 23-14 lead at the end of the second quarter. With 1:40 to go in the first quarter Michigan State looked to be in trouble, but it has stormed back to take the lead. Four long plays, including Kirk Cousins' 25-yard pass to Brian Linthicum, keyed the Spartans in the quarter. Michigan State stuffed Russell Wilson in the endzone for a safety to make the score 14-2. The Spartans made the score 14-9 after Keshawn Martin ran 34 yards to paydirt to finish off a 72-yard drive. Michigan State drove across midfield after from the 41-yard line. Cousins' 35-yard touchdown pass to B.J. Cunningham gave the Spartans the lead 16-14 after an eight-play, 80-yard drive. Cousins' 24-yard pass to Linthicum from the 33-yard line pushed Michigan State into enemy territory. The Spartans made the score 23-14 when Kyler Elsworth returned a blocked punt for a touchdown. Michigan State is set to receive to start the second half.
FIRST QUARTER: No. 4 Wisconsin gained 84 yards on the ground in the first, and the Badgers lead 14-0 at the end of the first quarter. Wisconsin took the game's first lead after Russell Wilson and Jacob Pedersen hooked up for a nine-yard touchdown on the last play of an 11-play, 80-yard drive. The Badgers added to their advantage when Montee Ball turned a handoff into a nine-yard touchdown, the last of a three-play, 30-yard drive to give Wisconsin the lead, 14-0. The Badgers began the drive with good field position after Wisconsin recovered a fumble. No. 15 Michigan State has the ball on the Badgers' 40-yard line to begin the second quarter.