The Michigan State Spartans are your Big Ten champions, as they defeated the Iowa Hawkeyes in thrilling fashion on Saturday night for a 16-13 victory. The win ultimately gives them a bid for the College Football Playoff.
For much of the game, it was basically a slugfest. Offense was barely a factor, with the game just being field goals the whole way through until the fourth quarter. Defense was all we saw for the first three quarters of this game.
It's hard to believe oddsmakers predicted this game finishing with a combined 52.5 points. It came nothing close, but it did deliver with an exciting ending nonetheless.
The game was rocky from the start for both teams. On the very first drive of the game, Iowa fumbled. This led to Michigan State capitalizing with a field goal, as Iowa's stout defense prevented a touchdown.
However, MSU wasn't so hot themselves. On their second drive of the game, star senior quarterback Connor Cook made a mistake a freshman would do: trying to force a pass instead of just throwing it away or taking a sack.
Instead, it led to this crazy interception:
Michigan State was able to hold Iowa to a field goal, leaving the game tied at 3. Not much really happened after that for the rest of the first half, as Michigan State missed two field goals.
They were also unable to capitalize on an interception they had on the Hawekyes, getting a three-and-out on the ensuing possession. With that, Iowa had a 6-3 lead at the break.
Things started to look up for Michigan State in the second half, continuing with their conservative play calling on offense while preventing Iowa's offense from doing anything. With that, the Spartans built a 9-6 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately for them, that lead came crashing down in the very first play of the fourth quarter as Iowa wide receiver Tevaun Smith scored on an 85-yard touchdown:
Michigan State's offense had not been so great throughout this game, and they faced a four-point deficit now. So they did what they needed to: milking out the clock.
The Spartans went on a 22-play, 82-yard drive to basically end the game. They drove their way down the field as slow as possible, taking out a huge chunk of the final quarter. In fact, their final drive lasted over nine minutes, giving Iowa just about 30 seconds to spare.
Things were getting crazy as the Spartans marched down the field, and they eventually faced a 4th-and-2 in the red zone. That's when they made the gutsy call to have Connor Cook run for the first down, in which he converted.
Running back LJ Scott said he was even surprised about the play call when asked about it after the game. However, just a few players later, Scott ended up becoming the hero for Michigan State on a play that had all of Lucas Oil Stadium booming.
The freshman running back delivered on this Beast Mode-like one-yard touchdown on a pivotal third down:
It was an insane play, and it ultimately gave Michigan State the win and a bid to the College Football Playoff. Iowa had 27 seconds to answer, but a fumble on their first play milked out much of the clock and they weren't able to make much out of it afterwards.
Scott himself finished with 73 yards rushing, and was given the game ball after the victory.
Cook struggled early on, but finished going 16-of-32 for 191 yards. Most importantly, he helped deliver a Big Ten Championship and a College Football Playoff bid.
"We wanted to come back and win a championship," Cook said. "It's awesome, man."
Michigan State had been fighting through a lot this season, such as their stunning win over Michigan earlier in the season or their upset victory against Ohio State. Now, they can have a chance to win a National Championship.
"Our football team knows how to win. We can play it out," coach Mark Dantonio said. "We don't count ourselves out. When some things aren't going so well, we keep playing as evidence by the game."
As for Iowa, who had not experienced a loss all season, just got their first that night.
"It's tough,'' Iowa QB C.J. Beathard said. "You've gone all season long and haven't experienced what it's like to lose a game. Every time we've been in the locker room after a game it's been exciting. It's just tough because losing a game like that when it's that close, it's hard to handle."
It was a tough game for MSU all throughout, but they got it done when it mattered most. It was all thanks to Scott, who saved the Spartans on a crazy one-yard touchdown run. The arm extension and reach for the end zone will be the definition of this one for MSU.
It's not everyday you see one-yard runs last for over six seconds, but the 233-pound Scott made that possible.
"He's a load. I felt like if he found a crease he'd get more," Dantonio said. "As it got down inside the 10-yard line, pound it, take the game and the clock, which I think is a big thing. We got the game and the clock. We did it slowly and methodically."
We'll see if MSU can carry this on once the playoffs begin.