For one last time, Michigan State’s seniors took to the field at Spartan Stadium on Saturday. And for one last time in East Lansing, they left with another thrilling victory. Out of the many wins these 17 seniors have now accumulated, this 35-31 defeat of Purdue was without a doubt one of the mostÂ rewarding victories ofÂ the past four years.
But, it certainly wasn’t easy. One look at the game’s numerous ups-and-downs will tell you that.
After opening up the contest with a 9-play, 72 yard touchdown drive, the Spartans looked to beÂ well on their way to a resounding victory.Â However,Â theirÂ normally solid defenseÂ was shell-shocked byÂ PurdueÂ twice in quick succession, first on an 80-yard burst byÂ RB Keith Carlos, and then on a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown by Ricardo Allen.Â Just like that, MSU’s dream Senior DayÂ had spiraled into an out-of-controlÂ nightmare. In particular,Â Cousins’Â interceptionÂ was an uncomfortable reminder of the many strugglesÂ theÂ squad experienced at Iowa.Â But, that was only one hurdle the Green-and-White had to overcome in a four-quarter battle filled with them.
Even after an Edwin Baker touchdown re-ignited the offense, Dan Conroy’s PAT attempt dinged off the left goal post, and still, MSU continued to struggle. 13 plays, 85 yards, and 7 more Purdue points later, and the SpartansÂ issues were truly magnified.Â Not only did they look like a typical State team coming off of a bye week (Spartan teamsÂ were 0-6 inÂ post-bye gamesÂ going into Saturday), they also looked uninspiredÂ and unmotivated.Â In fact,Â they looked extraordinarily unlike any MSU team that had stepped on the field all season (with the exception of the Iowa game), and certainly their lack of intensity and performance pointed towardsÂ justÂ that.
Yet, as they’ve done all season, Michigan State continued to play hard down after down, and earn small victories one series at a time. Shortly after withstanding a 69-yard, 11-play Purdue scoring drive, the Spartans intercepted Boilermaker QB Rob Henry deep in Purdue territory. In stepping up and making a big pick in crunch time, much-maligned CB Chris L. Rucker helped kick-start the comeback, and sure enough,Â four Â plays later, Kirk Cousins found B.J. Cunningham for a 5-yard score. Little by little, MSU fought and clawed its way back into the game, and just kept playing.
Even after a Purdue field goal widened the deficit to 11, State showed no signs of quitting. They displayed incredible toughness in putting together a quick touchdown drive, and followed that with the season’s first blocked punt, a play of huge magnitude. That short field resulted in a three-yard scoring scramble by Cousins, and put the game’sÂ finalÂ points on the board.
Once again, Coach Dantonio’s troops found a way to battle back from adversity and secure a victory.Â Despite finding themselves backed into corner, these Spartans responded in a huge way. Through renewed defensive intensity, crucial scoring plays on offense, and timelyÂ special teams work, State was able to climb out of a 15-point hole in perhaps their best comeback effort yet. In an unfamiliar situation (down by double-digits, at home),Â MSU playedÂ as though their season depended on it. If anyone still doubted them, this come-from-behind win cemented the Spartans’ toughness, as well as their skill at adapting to any situation.
ByÂ displaying classic Spartan resiliency and determination,Â MSU showed us why they’ve reached the ten-win plateau for just the third time in school history. Despite that, it’s clear they’re far from a perfect team. But, sometimes, you don’t have to be perfect. Sometimes, you just need to do whatever victory requires.Â When it comes down to that, I wouldn’t bet against the Spartans.