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Michigan State 16, Wisconsin 13 (OT): Kneejerk Reactions

Immediate postgame thoughts on a potential season-salvaging win in Madtown.

Mary Langenfeld-US PRESSWIRE

1) Now we are so happy, we do the Dance of Joy!

2) The most underrated rivalry in the Big Ten adds another wild finish.

Wisconsin and MSU may not have much history together in football, but it appears the recent competitiveness of the programs in basketball is propagating - and so is the penchant for last-second finishes.

We all know about the two crazy finishes last year ("Rocket" and "Running Into the Kicker"). Today, if you'd predicted a game-tying drive out of nowhere after the MSU offense spent three and a half quarters running in neutral (or worse, on occasion), you would have been laughed out of the game thread, but that's exactly what happened.

3) The defense went full BEAST MODE, as usual.

Another day, another opponent held way under their average. One blown coverage early on led to Wisconsin's only touchdown of the day, as Jacob Pedersen was pretty much all alone on the entire left side of the field. The other points came on a field goal following a fumble and another in OT, both on negative-yardage drives. But a total of 190 yards allowed (191 in regulation, -1 in OT), 57 (sack-adjusted) on the ground is spectacular - especially when you're facing a team with the ground firepower of Montee Ball and James White. The defense also scored five sacks, two by Max Bullough and one each for William Gholston, Taiwan Jones, and Kyler Elsworth, and seven additional tackles for loss.

4) The offense had another bad day until the very end. And then ... magic.

The stats, in a vacuum, don't look nearly as bad as the game felt: Andrew Maxwell went 23/37 passing for 204 yards and two TDs, 77 yards for Le'Veon Bell. But any time the offense got past midfield, things went horribly wrong: an ill-timed penalty, playcalls trying to get cute (Nick Hill has great speed and open-field maneuverability, but running him behind a patchwork offensive line just seems to be asking for failure), a sack, a blown-up screen - you name it, it was trouble. The offense failed to capitalize on a blocked punt in the second quarter and even got pushed back far enough to punt instead of trying a long field goal (a decision I still think was wrong, given Dan Conroy's range; would have been a 52-yard try), and a discombobulated two-minute drill ended without any real attempt to put points on the board near halftime despite running plays that looked like we were going to try.

After the late fumble that set up Wisconsin to go up 10-3, the offense had to go 75 yards in six minutes to tie the game. The way things had been going so far, you could have been forgiven for thinking it wouldn't happen if you gave them six hours. Even the start of the drive, barely getting the initial first down on 3rd and 3 after using well over a minute, didn't look promising. And then (from ESPN's play-by-play):

1st and 10 at MSU 36 Andrew Maxwell pass complete to Keith Mumphery for 17 yards to the Wisc 47 for a 1ST down.
1st and 10 at WIS 47 Andrew Maxwell pass complete to Keith Mumphery for 12 yards to the Wisc 35 for a 1ST down.
1st and 10 at WIS 35 Andrew Maxwell sacked by Pat Muldoon for a loss of 7 yards to the Wisc 42.
2nd and 17 at WIS 42 Andrew Maxwell pass complete to Tony Lippett for 20 yards to the Wisc 22 for a 1ST down.
1st and 10 at WIS 22 Andrew Maxwell pass complete to Tony Lippett for 4 yards to the Wisc 18.
2nd and 6 at WIS 18 Andrew Maxwell rush for 7 yards to the Wisc 11 for a 1ST down.
1st and 10 at WIS 11 Le'Veon Bell rush for 6 yards to the Wisc 5.

Two plays later, a shovel pass (wait, that's actually in our playbook?) tied the game. After the defense held up (and even pushed Wisconsin back a yard) on the first possession of OT, Bell got us in striking distance and then Bennie Fowler caught the game-winner.

(One other question: Where did Aaron Burbridge go? No catches on the day, and I don't think I even heard his name called. Keith Mumphery, Tony Lippett, and Fowler picked up the slack with five catches each.)

5) One more win to get a bowl game - and more importantly, the bowl-game practices.

None of the last three are gimmes, but all of them are winnable, and getting one of them is going to be much, much easier than getting two. We're not going to be going to Pasadena like we had hoped might happen at the start of the year, but finishing the year with a bowl game (likely the Buffalo Wild Wings, Car Care, or TicketCity Bowl at this point) would make this season a mere disappointment instead of a complete disaster.