Wolverines Fall at Michigan State on Game's Final Play

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State quarterback Jeff Smoker completed a two-yard touchdown pass to tailback T.J. Duckett on the final play of the game to upset No. 6-ranked Michigan by a 26-24 score Saturday afternoon (Nov. 3) at Spartan Stadium. The Wolverines (6-2, 4-1 Big Ten) suffered their first Big Ten loss of the season, while the Spartans improved to 5-2 on the year and 3-2 in the conference.

The Spartans offense moved into Michigan territory on six possessions during the second half but managed only two field goals prior to the game-winning score. The Wolverines defense set a school record with 12 sacks against the Spartans, including seven in the first half. Michigan State's Duckett was the first running back to gain over 100 rushing yards against the Wolverines this season, running for 211 yards on 27 carries and scoring a two-yard rushing touchdown.

Senior wide receiver Marquise Walker (Syracuse, N.Y./Henninger HS) paced the Michigan offense with his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the year. Walker caught nine passes for 150 yards and a pair of touchdown grabs. Junior/sophomore quarterback John Navarre (Cudahy, Wis./Cudahy HS) completed 14-of-27 passes for 195 yads and a season-best three touchdowns. Junior tailback B.J. Askew (Cincinnati, Ohio/Colerain HS) rushed 17 times for 84 yards in the game.

Michigan State took the opening possession of the game and took a 7-0 lead as Smoker hit wide receiver Charles Rogers on a 17-yard pass play with 9:33 remaining in the first quarter. The 13-play scoring drive covered 80 yards in 5:23 and was aided by a pass interference penalty on a fake fourth-down play. Duckett rushed three times for 26 yards on the drive, while Smoker completed 4-of-7 passes for 44 yards and added a three-yard run.

The Wolverines answered with a school-record 57-yard field goal by senior Hayden Epstein (Cardiff, Calif./Torrey Pines HS). On the very first play of the series, U-M moved into MSU territory as Navarre and Walker hooked up on a 25-yard pass play. Michigan was unable to gain a first down following the big play and Epstein kicked his school-record fourth field goal of 50 or more yards.

Following a missed 51-yard field goal by MSU kicker David Rayner, the Wolverines marched 67 yards in eight plays and took the lead on a 14-yard scoring pass from Navarre to Walker. The balanced offensive drive saw U-M gain 31 rushing yards on six carries and Navarre and Walker combine for 36 yards through the air on two completions.

The Spartans reclaimed the lead, 14-10, with 7:35 remaining in the first half as Duckett scored on a two-yard run. Michigan State moved 63 yards in 10 plays, with 41 yards coming on the ground. Duckett rushed five times for 29 yards and Dawan Moss added 12 yards on two carries.

Michigan took a 17-14 halftime advantage as Walker and Navarre combined on a 32-yard scoring play. The Wolverines duo scored for the second straight series on a third-down play. Walker and Navarre completed a 38-yard pass play to move inside MSU territory during the eight-play drive that covered 80 yards in 2:24.

After holding Michigan on its opening series of the third quarter, Michigan State took the ball down field and apparently scored on an nine-yard run by Duckett, but the Spartans were penalized for holding on the play. On third-and-12 from the 20-yard line, Smoker was sacked by junior/sophomore defensive end Shantee Orr (Detroit, Mich./Denby HS) for a seven-yard loss to force a 44-yard field goal attempt. Rayner missed the potential game-tying field goal wide to the left.

The Spartans tied the score, 17-17, with 12 seconds remaining in the third quarter on a 27-yard field goal by Rayner following a turnover by the Wolverines. Cornerback Duron Bryan intercepted a pass by Navarre and returned it 19 yards to the U-M 38-yard line to set up the score. Duckett carried the ball five times for 28 yards on the six-play scoring drive that took 1:58, with U-M's defense holding MSU out of the end zone for the second time in the half.

On the very next series, Navarre threw his second straight interception to Bryan, who returned it 14 yards to the Michigan 29-yard line. The Wolverines defense pushed the Spartans backwards and in the process collected their school record 10th sack of the game.

Moving inside Wolverine territory on its fourth consecutive possession, Michigan State grabbed a 20-17 lead as Rayner connected on a 26-yard field goal with 7:33 left in the fourth quarter. Smoker completed a 29-yard pass to Rogers on the second play of the 80-yard scoring drive. Duckett rushed three times for 38 yards, including a 27-yard run that moved the ball inside the U-M 20-yard line.

With 6:03 remaining, Smoker fumbled the ball and junior/sophomore defensive tackle Grant Bowman (Blacklick, Ohio/St. Francis De Sales HS) recovered at the MSU 38-yard line. Michigan grabbed a 24-20 advantage with 4:44 left in the game as Navarre completed a 20-yard touchdown pass to backup quarterback Jermaine Gonzales (Detroit, Mich./Orchard Lake St. Mary's HS) on third-and-13, with Gonzales lining up the fifth wide receiver in the offensive formation. Sophomore wide receiver Calvin Bell (Simi Valley, Calif./Simi Valley HS) moved the Wolverines into scoring territory on a 21-yard reverse to open the drive.

Herb Haygood gave the Spartans excellent field possession following a 49-yard kickoff return but the Michigan defense forced a punting situation and gained possession at its seven-yard line. After holding Michigan on three plays, the Spartans got the ball at U-M's 44-yard line following a punt by Epstein.

The Spartans moved down the field for the game-winning score and converted three fourth downs to gain the victory. After Smoker was sacked and tossed two incompletions, a 15-yard illegal hands to the face penalty was called against the Wolverines on fourth down to keep the drive alive. Smoker completed a 17-yard third-down pass to Haygood, then was sacked again but Michigan was called for an illegal participation penalty. Smoker tossed three straight incompletions, with sophomore cornerback Jeremy LeSueur (Holly Springs, Miss./Holly Springs HS) batting down a third-down play in the end zone before Smoker and Duckett hooked up on an eight-yard pass for a first down at the U-M three-yard line.

Smoker spiked the ball to the ground on first down with 17 seconds remaining and tried to run the ball on second down but was stopped at the one-yard line. Smoker grounded the ball with one second left to set up the fourth-down touchdown pass to Duckett.

The Wolverines return to Ann Arbor next Saturday (Nov. 10) to play Minnesota in the 90th meeting for the Little Brown Jug. The game with the Golden Gophers begins at 12:10 p.m. EST and will be televised by either ESPN or espn2.

Contact: David Ablauf, Jim Schneider (734) 763-4423

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