Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Finally comprehending the seemingly incomprehensible: the greatest football play in MSU history

I've had some time to fully digest and contemplate the incredible play that won the Michigan game for the Spartans. At the time I wrote my previous post, I don't know if the magnitude of what I (and we) witnessed fully registered. It took a few days for my brain to absorb the reality--and rarity--of the play.

To think that I wasn't even sure if I could watch the game. As usual, before the Michigan game I went through my standard anxiety, not sure if I could gut it out. About a half-hour before game time, having completed a 5K run in the neighborhood to relax and calm my nerves, I decided to not be a wimp and root the Spartans on and watch the game on television.

It was a great game, a hard-hitting tilt between two evenly matched teams. Calmed by several Bell's Two-Hearted Ales, I made it through the game without feeling excessive stress. Even when Connor Cook's desperation 4th down pass late in the fourth quarter fell incomplete, I'd already rationalized, as much as possible, the Spartans' close "loss" to the Wolverines: This short-handed, beat up team had played its heart out and came up just a bit short on the road. I braced myself for the inevitable Harbaugh deification that would occur in the upcoming week and prepared to focus my energies on non-football related pursuits. 

But the game wasn't quite over yet. I watched as the MSU defense stuffed Michigan on the Wolverines' final possession, hoping that the Spartans could get at least one desperation shot for a miracle. As we all know, the Spartans did hold Michigan to a three-and-out and the Wolverines prepared to punt with 10 seconds left. I stood in front of the television, no doubt preparing to immediately turn the television off when the final second ticked off the clock. 

The ball was snapped, and I'm sure my pulse quickened when the punter, Blake O'Neill, struggled handling the punt. After that, it's all a bit of a blur. O'Neill was pounced upon by Spartan defenders Matt Morrissey and Grayson Miller, the football flew directly from O'Neill's hand into the hands of Jalen Watts-Jackson running in full stride. I'm not exactly sure, but I think I yelled, "Oh my God! Oh my God!" It was only 10 seconds, but it felt as if time stood still and for all I know, I was speaking in tongues. I prayed that Watts-Jackson would score. Once he hit about the 10-yard line, it was do or die. Either he got into the end zone, or else he was tackled and the game was over. At about the 7-yard line, Watts-Jackson cut to the inside and ran towards the goal line. A desperate Jake Butt, probably running faster than he ever had in his life, lunged for Watts-Jackson just as he was diving towards the goal line. Watts-Jackson made it by the slimmest of margins. My next impulse was to check for flags on the play. Surely there must be a flag on the play. When a few seconds passed and it was clear there were no penalties, it finally dawned on me...

"We won!! We won!! Oh my God, we won!!"

As long as I live, I may never see an ending like that ever again. I was breathless, I was elated, I stormed in a circle from my living room, down the hallway, into the kitchen, through the dining room, and back into the living room. I did what I almost always do after a big Michigan State win, I called my parents and celebrated. Then I listened to some of Spartan Sports Radio's post-game show, and remained in a happy glow for the rest of the weekend.

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