5 Reasons Michigan State Beat Wisconsin
5 Reasons Why Michigan State Beat Wisconsin
It seemed like just another Saturday for Michigan State in 2012, down by a touchdown late in the game and seemingly no chance for the anemic offense to drive down the field for the tying score. They had a hard enough time scoring a field goal in the game, but a touchdown? No way.
Then the offense started taking the shape of the 2011 offense with Kirk Cousins at the helm. Andrew Maxwell was calm, cool and collected as the Spartans took the ball from their 25-yard line with six minutes left and engineered a 75-yard drive that showcased Maxwell's strong arm.
They went on to win in overtime, claiming their third win against Wisconsin in their last four meetings and first win in Madison since 2001.
The drive was their best of the season and led to the momentum carrying over into overtime. The defense was stingy all game, holding the Badgers to just one touchdown, just their second touchdown allowed in the past three games.
This game showed the resilience of this Mark Dantonio-coached team, something that was hidden in the weeks previous because of no sense of urgency shown during one-possession games.
With three tough games coming up for Michigan State, this win in Madison was crucial for the Spartans' bowl hopes, putting them just one win away from bowl eligibility for the sixth straight season in the Mark Dantonio era.
Michigan State seems to have the Badgers' number in the past three seasons, but will most likely not have a chance to rematch Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, barring some sort of miracle with the teams ahead of them in the Legends Division.
Here is a list of five reasons why I believe the Spartans upset the Badgers in Madison.
Joel Stave's Injury
Wisconsin went into the half with a 7-3 lead and the freshman Joel Stave was looking great against a solid Michigan State defense. Stave completed over 80 percent of his passes for 127 yards and a touchdown. Then the unthinkable happened-- Spartan defensive end William Gholston broke through the Badger offensive line and sacked the freshman quarterback, slamming him to the ground and injuring his shoulder. He went to the locker room and never returned to action. His replacement, senior transfer quarterback Danny O'Brien completed just five of 11 passes for a pedestrian 44 yards. This was the momentum-changer that contributed to the Spartans victory.
Max Bullough and the Spartans' Defense
Michigan State once again played stellar defense. The defense, led by linebacker Max Bullough, had a total of five sacks on Saturday. This was a promising number, seeing as the Spartans recorded just six sacks in the first eight games of the season. Bullough had his best game of the season at the middle linebacker spot, recording nine tackles and his first two sacks of the season. He was all over the field and fired up the defense throughout the game, helping to keep the Badgers under 200 yards of total yards to finish the game. The defense isn't the best in the Big Ten for nothing.
Andrew Maxwell's Sense of Urgency
Sense of urgency? Many Spartan fans had no idea that this team understood the concept of 'sense of urgency' because of the way they've finished out games in conference play this season. The three Big Ten losses that the Spartans have suffered have been by a total of six points, showing a lack of urgency of this offense when clutch situations occur. Maxwell was one player that people were waiting to step up in a clutch situation and prove that he is the leader of this team. He was completed eight of nine passes in the final drive of regulation for 69 yards, capping it off with a touchdown. He was one for two in overtime, throwing for the game-winning 12-yard touchdown to Bennie Fowler. This could be a huge confidence-booster for Maxwell moving forward.
Late Game Play-Calling
Michigan State has had a problem with play-calling this season. Trying to find the offense's strength and utilizing it for multiple plays at a time has been an issue for offensive coordinator Dan Roushar in 2012. Last year was easier on the coach because of the multitude of weapons that were on the team and the established quarterback behind center. This season, Le'Veon Bell has been relied on heavily, but his yards per carry are down to around 4.3 and has been less effective recently due to the predictability of the play-calling. However, in the final minutes of the game and even in overtime, Roushar took risks, running 11 pass plays in the final drive and overtime-- a two-minute offense that seemed extremely effective and should be utilized more often. The last time the Spartans scored touchdowns on two consecutive drives? Not since week two, but this could be a sign of things to come.
Receivers Making Big Plays
The receivers have been one of the most questionable units on this Spartan team. This game was different. Although Maxwell's new favorite target, Aaron Burbridge, had no catches, but other receivers stepped up in the absence of Burbridge's production. Tony Lippitt was responsible for five catches and 49 yards, making tough catch after tough catch. Bennie Fowler was quite possibly even more impressive, catching the ball six times for 48 yards and the game-winning touchdown in overtime. There were no drops and no bad routes noticeable throughout the entire game, especially in the last drive, including overtime. If this group can keep improving each game, the Spartan offense could see a serious increase in production.