EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP)—Wisconsin’s dream of an unbeaten season might have ended just before halftime Saturday at Michigan State.
That’s when Anthony Davis went airborne toward the goal line on fourth-and-inches, expecting to score the game-tying touchdown against the upstart Spartans.
But two Michigan State players met him head-on to stop him just short—a pivotal play in a game that wound up a lopsided 49-14 Spartan victory.
“That was a big momentum shift,” Davis said. “When something like that happens you really have to pull together as a team and get the momentum back, some how, some way. We didn’t do that.”
Michigan State used a powerful rushing attack, a trick play and a key defensive stand to defeat No. 4 Wisconsin and knock the Badgers out of the national championship race.
The Spartans (5-5, 4-3 Big Ten) handed the Badgers their first loss and knocked Wisconsin (9-1, 6-1) into a second-place tie with Iowa in the Big Ten behind Michigan. The win keeps Michigan State’s bowl hopes alive.
The Badgers entered the game ranked fifth in the Bowl Championship Series standings, primarily because of a dominating defense that had allowed 9.1 points a game—lowest in the nation. But Michigan State rolled up 551 yards of total offense, including 430 on the ground.
It sent Michigan State seniors out in style in their final home game at Spartan Stadium.
“What a deal for our seniors, something they’ll remember the rest of their lives,” Michigan State coach John L. Smith said. “Once we got the snowball rolling and got momentum, it was a good deal.”
Jehuu Caulcrick had 146 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries for the Spartans. Jason Teague had 112 yards and a TD on 17 carries. He also caught a 30-yard touchdown pass on a trick play in the first half, with the ball thrown by wide receiver Aaron Alexander.
Davis led Wisconsin with 128 yards on 21 carries, including a touchdown. But he and the Badgers were cascaded with chants of “overrated” early in the third quarter from more than 76,000 fans at Spartan Stadium.
When it was over, Badger quarterback John Stocco looked lost at midfield, as Michigan State players, fans and band members swarmed in clusters around him.
“You’re not going to win them all,” Stocco said. “You either get worse or you get better. Personally, I feel I took a step back today.”
Stocco completed 20 of 38 passes for 178 yards. But the problem for Wisconsin was more so on defense.
The Badgers had given up a season-high in points by halftime and total yardage by early in the third quarter.
Michigan State grabbed a 28-14 lead on the first drive of the second half, sparked by the recovery of a surprise onside kick. It set up a 54-yard drive capped by Caulcrick’s 1-yard touchdown run.
“The onside kick was a huge play,” Wisconsin receiver Brandon Williams said.
The Spartans had preserved their halftime lead by stopping Wisconsin on four straight plays from inside the 1 late in the second quarter. Davis was stopped short of the goal line on fourth-and-inches by linebacker David Herron Jr. and cornerback Roderick Maples.
The play was reviewed by Big Ten officials, but the play stood as called on the field.
“You would like to score just before the end of the half and go in tied,” Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said. “I felt that our guys were in the ball game.”
Michigan State got a first-half touchdown on a blocked punt by Marshall Campbell, recovered by Travis Key in the end zone.
Damon Dowdell played the first half at quarterback for Michigan State. He was replaced by Drew Stanton because of a shoulder injury.
Both were effective running the ball out of Michigan State’s spread offense, which kept Wisconsin off balance.
“They didn’t do anything specific,” Alvarez said. “They didn’t do anything we hadn’t seen. We didn’t play well in any phase of the game.”