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Ranking Mark Dantonio’s 100 wins: 2011 “Rocket” victory vs. Wisconsin comes in at No. 8

Rocket maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan

Wisconsin v Michigan State Photo by Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

We are two weeks away from the Spartans kicking off the 2018 season.

How about looking back at one of the most thrilling wins in Spartan Stadium history to get us even more excited for it, eh?

Coming in at No. 8 is a game that just needs one word — Rocket.

Wins No. 100-9 all don’t have cool names, but we wrote about each of them anyway right here.

Win No. 8

Oct. 22, 2011: No. 15 MSU 37, No. 4 Wisconsin 31

A premier showdown on primetime television made for an electric night at Spartan Stadium.

MSU vs. Wisconsin. Kirk Cousins vs. Russell Wilson. MSU’s defense vs. Monte Ball. Ball position vs. The replay system.

This game had it ALL.

Wisconsin v Michigan State Photo by Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

How They Won

Well, yeah, we know the last play by now. At least I hope you do.

However, a lot happened before that. I mean, A LOT.

First, a lot of bad happened. Wisconsin scored on the first drive, Edwin Baker fumbled on literally the first play from scrimmage and then Wisconsin scored again. It was 14-0 before the seats were even warm.

Then some beautiful football happened.

A Russell Wilson intentional grounding in front of the end zone chalked up two points for a safety. MSU kept the foot on the gas with a SEXY 34 yard touchdown run by Keshawn Martin to cut the lead to 14-9 with 11:22 left in the second quarter.

Ball game renewed.

And the ball game only got better, starting with a blocked 30-yard field goal attempt by Wisconsin. MSU then turned that into a touchdown drive that ended with a Kirk Cousins touchdown pass to BJ Cunningham on 4th-and-2 to give the crowd a 16-14 lead to celebrate.

However, they weren’t done with the scoring frenzy that half — a blocked punt right in front of the student section ended in a green and white touchdown and a 23-14 lead going into halftime.

At that point you knew only an atomic bomb could maybe bring down Spartan Stadium, because the pandemonium was a full on 14/10 on the excitement scale.

MSU just scored one more time in the second half before Rocket happened, coming on a Kirk Cousins pass to Martin to make it a 31-17 game with 11 minutes left in the game.

In the meantime, Russell Wilson balled out with a passing touchdown to make it 31-24 and another late passing touchdown to Monte Ball with 1:26 left to tie it up.

So...overtime? HA, YOU THOUGHT!

Time For Takeoff

That “Rocket” drive wasn’t as easy as simply setting up for a Hail Mary. Cousins and the offense had to grind just to get to that point.

It took two separate 3rd-and-long conversions to even get to the famed 44 yard line where MSU started their final play at. Then, the rest is history...

Of course, it went to review after Keith Nichol initially was called down at the .000001 yard line. Despite the crowd of 74,000+ holding onto its breath during the review, Nichol knew he had it. Well, at least that was his first thought.

“I remember when I caught the ball and my initial thought process was that it was for sure a touchdown,” he told in 2015. “I felt like my body went over the end zone. But then when they reviewed it, I began second guessing myself and was just hoping the film caught it.”

Wisconsin v Michigan State Photo by Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

What This Win Meant

Think back to 2011 and how MSU was viewed then.

They were viewed as “pretty good” but still not “serious contender” in the eyes of many. Beating a No. 6 Wisconsin team a year after Dantonio’s first double-digit win season was too hard for people to pass up as just a fluke.

This was one of the wins that truly legitimized Dantonio’s program, and what better time to do it than in primetime on a big network?

We know what happened later this season during the rematch after the Spartans won the Legends Division. However, this win is inarguably one of the most iconic wins in Dantonio’s tenure and one of the most thrilling in program history.


Is ranking this win at No. 8 too high, too low or just right?

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  • 3%
    Ranked too high
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  • 34%
    Ranked too low
    (120 votes)
  • 61%
    Ranked just right
    (210 votes)
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