One can safely assume that fans of Michigan State football are anxious for the 2017 season to start. None more so though than head coach Mark Dantonio, who has had to deal with a multitude of off-the-field headlines controlling the program.
Dantonio will look to lead the Spartans and bounce back from what was easily their worst season in his ten seasons as head coach. But throughout his tenure, there has been no shortage of exciting and thrilling moments on the field.
We’ve compiled a list of the seven ‘most thrilling’ games/plays from the Mark Dantonio era at Michigan State, in no particular order:
September 18, 2010 – ‘Little Giants’ vs. Notre Dame
This play kick-started everything for Dantonio and the Spartans. And it came during the 2010 campaign, where maybe Dantonio wasn’t on the hot seat per say ( the fourth year into his tenure), but there were small rumbles if anything after going 22-17 in his first three years.
Here is Brad Nessler with “the call of the year” from Dantonio against Brian Kelly and Notre Dame, in overtime.
October 2011 – ‘Rocket’ vs. Wisconsin
The 2011 season was one of validation for Michigan State after going 11-2 the season before. Enter the 2011 edition of the Spartans, looking to pile up some statement wins against Big Ten foes.
A Saturday night prime time showdown at home vs. the No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers set the stage. Here, “you are looking live” with Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit at what was arguably the play of the year in college football, a Hail Mary from Kirk Cousins to Keith Nichol with no time left.
January 2, 2012 – Outback Bowl vs. Georgia
This was a signature “gut check” game for Dantonio and Michigan State at the time. They earned themselves a second January bowl game in as many seasons. And after getting housed by Alabama the year before, they needed to redeem themselves against another SEC power in the Georgia Bulldogs.
In what was easily one of the more exciting football games from that season, let along bowl games, MSU overcomes a 16-0 halftime deficit to win in triple overtime.
December 29, 2012 – Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl vs. TCU
Michigan State stubbed their toe in the 2012 campaign, it was a team that was as stout as anyone on defense, but also as inept and ineffective on offense. It led to just a .500 record in the regular season, with five of their six losses by four points or fewer.
Despite the setback season, the Spartans earned a sixth consecutive bowl bid. This time, they headed for the desert to play TCU. And again, they found themselves in a hole early on, down 13-0 at halftime. But Dantonio had another comeback in the books.
December 7, 2013 – Big Ten Championship vs. Ohio State
The 2013 club was arguably Dantonio’s best bunch. If not for some questionable pass interference calls in an early-season tilt at Notre Dame, Michigan State is waltzing into Indianapolis with an undefeated record against Ohio State.
The Buckeyes, who were undefeated for a second consecutive season, were about as deep and talented as any other in the country. In what was a back-and-forth affair — literally, look at the progression of scoring plays — Michigan State had the last laugh, handing Urban Meyer his first loss as OSU head coach in his first two seasons.
January 1, 2014 – Rose Bowl Game vs. Stanford
Sparty bounced back in a big way in 2013, racking up 12 wins and a Big Ten championship after dispatching Ohio State. It earned them a ticket to their first Rose Bowl in more than 25 years.
On the other side of the ledger was a Stanford team, Pac-12 champions and defending Rose Bowl champions. Despite playing in a rather offensive-prolific league, the Cardinal stoned every opponent with defense, a la Michigan State style. These two teams were carbon copies of one another, and this Rose Bowl Game proved just that.
January 1, 2015 – Cotton Bowl Classic vs. Baylor
Posting 11 more wins in 2014 earned Michigan State yet another big-time bowl bid in the month of January. This time, it was a date with Baylor, one of if not the most high-octane offense in college football.
Going in, many had doubts due to MSU’s struggles in the regular season against teams with offenses similar to the Bears (Oregon and Ohio State, specifically). And throughout the game, it looked like that was going to be the case again.
But then came the fourth quarter. Down 20, Michigan State outscores Baylor 21-0 in the final frame, including the game-winning touchdown with under 20 seconds to go. It was the largest comeback in program history in a bowl game.
October 17, 2015 – ‘Trouble with the Snap’ vs. Michigan
Finally, a battle for Paul Bunyan between Michigan and Michigan State where BOTH teams are legitimate Big Ten contenders. It had been a minute since the two were on this level together prior to this meeting.
It was a game statistically controlled by Michigan State, but the Wolverines led for much of the contest… 59 minutes and 59 seconds, as a matter of fact. It will forever go down as one of the single most incredible plays in college football history.
November 21, 2015 – ‘Geiger Counter’ Kick vs. Ohio State
No Connor Cook. A platoon of Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry at quarterback. Traveling to Columbus to play Ohio State. Oh, and the weather was reminiscent of a monsoon at times. No chance in hell for Michigan State, right?
As Lee Corso might say, “Not so fast!”
Again, a game in which Michigan State dominated the box score but not so much the scoreboard, only until the final seconds of the game.
December 5, 2015 – ‘The Drive and Stretch’ vs. Iowa | B1G Championship
So with a couple miraculous wins in their back pocket against the two powerhouse programs they needed to beat in order to get to the conference title game, Michigan State was now pitted against Iowa.
The Hawkeyes entering the game were unblemished, despite having a relatively soft and uncontested schedule according to pundits. This ultimately turned into the class “smash mouth” Big Ten slugfest. And Mark Dantonio used his late-game magic once more to milk the clock and set up what would be another Big Ten title and a ticket to the College Football Playoff.
[Note: Clip below is the championship-winning drive]