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Michigan State Wins Rivalry Game with Last-Minute Interception to Seal Game

Photo credit: Sports Illustrated, Nick King/Lansing State Journal/USA TODAY Network

EAST LANSING, MI-The No. 3 ranked Michigan State Spartans got the 37-33 win at home over the No. 9 Michigan Wolverines in a classic rivalry that’s over a hundred years old. 

The stakes couldn’t of been higher than they already were going into Saturday’s rivalry game; both Michigan and Michigan State entered the game with 7-0 records. This rivalry attracted 76,549 fans from both teams to Spartan Stadium and about 9 million more watching from home. Everyone was waiting to see who would claim the Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Trophy this year, and the game did not disappoint.  

Michigan scored first with a 93-yard pass from junior quarterback, Cade McNamara, to freshman wide receiver, Andrel Anthony, to put the Wolverines up 7-0 over the Spartans with a little over 11 minutes left in the first quarter. They added a 26-yard field goal by senior kicker, Jake Moody, to give them a 10-0 advantage before shutting out the Spartans in the first quarter. The shutout did not remain long and the Spartans scored 8 seconds into the second quarter on a 27-yard run from junior running back, Kenneth Walker III, which brought the game within 3 points. The Wolverines answered with a 38-yard field goal that gave them a 6-point lead over the Spartans, 13-7. The Spartans running back struck again for Michigan State adding an 8-yard run to give them a 14-13 lead over Michigan; this was their first lead of the game. Michigan State did not score for the remainder of the half, but soon reclaimed the lead with a 17-yard touchdown from freshman quarterback, J.J. McCarthy, to Anthony. Plus, a 35-yard field goal by Moody gave them a 23-14 lead at the break.

Things started to look good for the Michigan Wolverines after the break when junior, Mike Sainristil, caught a 19-yard pass from McNamara to extend their lead 30-17 over Michigan State. Michigan’s response was Kenneth Walker III: he scored for the Spartans a third time. His 1-yd rushing touchdown and 2-point conversion at the end of the third quarter put the Spartans within 8 points, which solidified Michigan States’ chances of winning and kept their perfect record alive.  

The Spartans tied the game 30-30, after a 58-yard run by Walker III followed by a 2-point conversion. Michigan States’ defense held Michigan to a 36-yard field goal and with about five minutes left in the game, Walker III rushed for his fifth touchdown of the game. His 23-yard touchdown gave Michigan State a 33-37 lead over Michigan. Michigan had one last opportunity after stopping the Spartans and forcing them to punt. With a minute, Michigan quarterback, McNamara, attempted a pass to senior tight end, Luke Schoonmaker, but it was intercepted with one hand by Michigan States’ freshman safety, Charles Bradley, to end the game. Michigan State came out with a 37-33 victory and added another win to their undefeated season.  

Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III, now a Heisman contender, had 5 rushing touchdowns and 197 rushing yards in the game. In a post-game interview with Sports Illustrated, Walker III was asked if he felt this was a Heisman level performance and he responded with “I don’t feel like it’s a Heisman moment…I just think it was a great team win.” Michigan coach Mel Turner felt similar when talking with reporters after the game. He said, “Epic game…that was a classic. I mean, that was a big-time game.”  

Other notable players from Michigan State in Saturday’s game included their quarterback, P. Thorne, who went 19-30 passing with 195 yds and 2 interceptions, and their wide receiver, J. Reed, who had 6 completions for 80yds. Notable players from Michigan included their quarterback C. McNamara, who went a career-high 28-44 in passing for 383 yds, 2 touchdowns and an interception. The team’s wide receiver, A. Anthony, also had 6 receptions for 155yds and 2 touchdowns.

Next week Michigan is on the road taking on No. 22 ranked Penn State in a BIG 10 conference game. Michigan is hoping to bounce back after this loss and stay above Penn State in conference play.