NCAA / other
#2: The 10 Greatest Games I've Ever Attended -- MSU vs. Northwestern 9/29/2001
As a junior in high school, I tagged along with my brother and his group of friends in a crowded sedan for the drive down to Evanston, Illinois. We are off to see our beloved #23 ranked Michigan State Spartans play the #16 ranked Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field. The Spartans second-best player at the time, star running back T.J. Duckett, was a close friend of my brother and this group of friends. Since T.J. was on the same teams as my brother in high school, I had watched several dozen of his games. He was the #1 overall recruit coming out of high school as a linebacker, but decided to play running back instead. He was someone I always looked up to. Image Source: Getty Images/Jonathan DanielThe drive took around three hours to get from Kalamazoo to Evanston. The game was sold out so we arrived early to get comfortable in our seats. Although it's heavily worn, I've been able to hold onto my ticket stub for all of these years from that memorable game. Thank you for joining me as I detail #2 on my list of the ten greatest games I've ever attended. If you're new to this series, welcome! Please read the previous posts here: Series Introduction #10. 2006 NHL Playoffs Edmonton vs. Detroit Game 1 #9. 2007 Music City Bowl #8. ND @ MSU Football, 9/23/2006 #7. 2011 ALDS Game 3 #6. 2009 NCAA Final Four #5. Detroit Tigers vs. Cincinnati Reds 5/20/2006 #4. 2008 NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional#3. 2010 NCAA National Championship Game Now let's dive into this incredible game and my experience. The Game Both nationally ranked, this was a big game for both teams. Michigan State started off strong by running T.J. Duckett up the middle again and again. The fullback led the Spartans into the end zone from a yard out to give Michigan State a 7-0 lead after the extra point. Northwestern quarterback Zak Kustok put the Wildcats on his shoulders and exposed a weak Michigan State defense, taking a 17-7 lead. There were several sloppy turnovers throughout the game, with several of those coming on special teams as you can see in the video above. The Spartans were able to score another rushing touchdown before halftime to cut into the lead (14-17).After a very boring third quarter, the fourth quarter of this game was the most exciting I have ever witnessed. Although the video above only shows the highlights for Northwestern, it captures the end of this game quite well. With Michigan State still trailing 14-17 with just over 5 minutes left in the game, the Spartans forced the Wildcats to punt. Future second overall pick in the NFL draft Charles Rogers was brought out to return the punt, and he did not disappoint. Rogers took the kick 64 yards for a touchdown to give the Spartans a 20-17 lead (MSU missed the extra point). We were going crazy and it felt like the Spartans had sucked all of the momentum out of the stadium. Northwestern slowly moved down the field, trying to eat the clock while either kicking a field goal to tie the game or scoring a touchdown to take the lead. With just 32 seconds left in the game, Zak Kustok connected with one of his receivers for a 10-yard touchdown, giving Northwestern the 24-20 lead. Despite the odds, this game wasn't over yet. On the ensuing kickoff, return specialist Herb Haygood was able to find a seam and took that kickoff 84 yards for the touchdown. The Michigan State fan base at the game exploded and we were ready to party. Because of an earlier missed extra point, Michigan State led 26-24. After a bad kickoff return effort, the Wildcats had under 20 seconds left to work with from their own 10-yard-line. I hate remembering the last few seconds of this game, but somehow, Zak Kustok was able to find a receiver 60-yards down the field for a completion. The Wildcats were then able to move the ball close to the center of the field and take a timeout with just 5 seconds left. A 47-yard field goal went over the uprights, and Northwestern had defeated Michigan State 27-26 in heartbreaking fashion. My Experience In addition to being the second greatest game I’ve ever seen in person, there are a lot of memories, good and bad, that are associated with this time in my life. This game was played just two weeks after 9/11. Each fan was given an American flag to put on their clothing and there were several tributes before the game began. After Herb Haygood returned the late kickoff for a touchdown, giving the Spartans the lead in the final minute, we discussed charging the field. At the time, it seemed like a good idea. We wanted to make the most of our trip and Michigan State's victory, so why not go out on the field to celebrate with the team? Well, it's a good thing Michigan State didn't win. After Northwestern's 47-yard field goal gave the Wildcats the victory, we witnessed several of their fans on the other side of the field decide to charge the field to celebrate with their favorite team. The first fan who made his way over the gate ran down the small hill on his way to the field. In a move that I have only seen in WWE wrestling, a security guard swiftly scooped that fan up and slammed him on the ground. We looked at each other, and without saying anything, knew that could have been us. I have not been interested in ever running or walking onto a field or court after a dramatic victory again. Stay tuned for #1 on my list, and thank you so much for going on this journey with me!
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