Michigan State rallies past Wisconsin, 25-24

Published 7:10 am Monday, November 3, 2008

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Dowagiac Daily News
EAST LANSING – Michigan State kicker Brett Swenson made all four of his field goal attempts on Saturday against Wisconsin, including a game-winning 44-yard boot with 12 seconds remaining that lifted the Spartans over Wisconsin, 25-24, in East Lansing.
The win keeps alive Michigan State's chance to play for a share of the Big Ten title. The Spartans (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) host Purdue next week and end the season in Happy Valley against Penn State.
The Spartans sputtered most of the game and didn't score a touchdown until 2:59 left in the third quarter. They struggled rushing the ball and gained only 69 yards on the ground, including 54 yards and two touchdowns from Javon Ringer.
The Badgers controlled most of the game with a rushing attack that pounded the Michigan State defense up the middle and to the outside and produced a pair of 100-yard rushers in P.J. Hill (106 yards) and John Clay (111 yards). Quarterback Dustin Sherer was 14 for 28 passing for 129 yards and one touchdown.
"I can't say it was a pretty game, but we just kept hanging around. We regained our composure; we gained a little bit of momentum and some emotion there in the fourth quarter." said Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio.
The Spartans have struggled in recent years in close games and have a reputation of faltering in the second half of the season. Dantonio said this team has benefited from senior leadership and the experience that comes with playing in close games.
"I hope this serves as an example for our football team to just keep playing regardless of whether we were down by 11 points with six or seven minutes," Dantonio said. "We're figuring out ways to win close games, and I think that can become a confidence boost for us.
"Last year in this situation something would happen and we'd lose the football game."
Wisconsin's first touchdown came at the 3:01 mark of the first quarter. The drive took eight plays – six were rushes – and covered 51 yards (4-5, 1-5).
Michigan State got on the board with 8:40 remaining in the second quarter after Dwayne Holmes forced a fumble by Sherer. The Spartans then drove 32 yards on eight plays to set up a 27-yard field goal by Swenson.
Michigan State began its next drive on its own 16-yard line. Swenson pulled the Spartans within one, 7-6, with a 21-yard field goal.
Wisconsin pushed the lead to 10-6 before the end of the half with a 31-yard field goal from Philip Welch.
The Badgers stayed in control to begin the second half and grabbed a 17-6 lead when Hill scored on a 10-yard run at the 4:13 mark of the third quarter.
Michigan State narrowed the gap to 17-13 on its next drive after drawing a pass interference penalty that put the Spartans on the Wisconsin 6-yard line. Ringer scored two plays later on a 2-yard rush.
Wisconsin stayed with the rush and found the end zone again six minutes into the fourth quarter. Clay capped the 80-yard drive with a 32-yard scoring sprint.
The game turned in the Spartans' favor after a pair of Wisconsin penalties. The Badgers were flagged for delay of game, which resulted in coach Bret Bielema drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
A pass interference penalty four plays later placed the Spartans at Wisconsin's 2-yard line. Ringer found the end zone again but the Spartans failed to score on the 2-point conversion, leaving the Badgers with 24-19 lead.
A 50-yard boot by Swenson cut the deficit to 24-22 with 5:16 remaining.
The Spartans got the ball back at its own 17-yard line with 1:19 to play. Quarterback Brian Hoyer completed three of four passes on the drive to put Michigan State at the Wisconsin 27-yard line.
Wisconsin called two timeouts before Swenson kicked the winning field goal with 12 seconds on the clock.
"That was the one of the best kicks I have had in a long time," said Swenson, a junior who was 0 for 3 in field goals last week in the win against Michigan. "I came off my foot real well and it had good weight and power even when it hit the net I think, but I turned away halfway because it felt so good and I was so excited."