With time on its side, Michigan State knocked off Michigan on the last play
After junior running back T.J. Duckett had ripped through the nation's top rushing defense for 211 yards and caught the winning, two-yard touchdown pass with zeroes on the clock to give Michigan State a 26-24 victory over No. 6 Michigan, he said his mantra on the decisive drive was "Got to score. Got to score. Got to score by any means necessary." Little did Duckett know.
Two plays before Duckett's clutch catch, Spartans quarterback Jeff Smoker was tackled at the two-yard line with 12 seconds left and Michigan State out of timeouts. The referee hurriedly got the ball ready for play, and Smoker lined up the Spartans and spiked the ball with :01 showing on the scoreboard, '["hat single tick remained apparently because of the quick finger of the Michigan State employee manning the clock in a booth upstairs. Replays seem to show that the clock was stopped prematurely—before the ref waved the spike play dead—giving Michigan State an unwarranted shot at victory.
When Duckett caught the TD pass, the Spartans erupted in celebration. "I was at the bottom of the pile. You never want to be at the bottom," said the 6'1", 249-pound Duckett. He paused. "Actually, if you're at the bottom, that means you did something good."
Entering the game, the Wolverines' defense had allowed an average of 54.4 rushing yards in its previous six games, but Duckett was coming off a 186-yard, two-touchdown effort against Wisconsin, in which he'd begun to show his patient, punishing style at its best. Duckett, a native of Kalamazoo, Mich., doesn't hurry in choosing where to run. Once he chooses, he's pretty good at hurrying. His performances against the Badgers and Wolverines have been of the dominant sort he was expected to produce when Michigan State signed him after Notre Dame had decided Duckett wasn't academically worthy (SI, May 1, 2000).
Against Michigan, Duckett drew inspiration from the memory of his mother, Jacqulyn Barham, who would have turned 59 two days before the game had she not died of cancer in March 2000. "I didn't say anything this week. I didn't want sympathy," Duckett said. "I tried to play for her. It meant a lot to me."
While Michigan, which had been rated No. 4 in the BCS standings, couldn't stop Duckett, it did get to Smoker for a school-record 12 sacks. Nevertheless, the Wolverines played themselves out of the national championship race by committing two penalties on the Spartans' game-winning drive. The first, a personal foul (face mask) after Michigan State had failed to convert on fourth-and-16, gave the Spartans new life at the Michigan 35. The second, an 11-yarder for having 12 defenders on the field, gave the Spartans a second-and-three at the 11, and they scored seven plays later.
After the game Duckett remarked on how Michigan State had played hard for 60 minutes. That it did—and a little more.
Few Firings Expected
The Coaching Carousel Begins
An early frost doesn't necessarily portend a cold winter. So it is that the firing of Terry Allen by Kansas, the firing of Charlie Weatherbie by Navy and the resignation of Cal's Tom Holmoe, all within an eight-day period ending on Sunday, shouldn't be seen as a sign of wholesale coaching changes to come. In fact, so little turnover is expected this year that it could rival 1987 and '95, when nine coaching changes occurred each year, the lowest turnover since the NCAA started tracking coaching moves in '46. Only four other coaches- Cam Cameron of Indiana, Ted Tollner of San Diego State, Mike Cavan of SMU and Woody Widenhofer of Vanderbilt—are in deep trouble. Notre Dame's Bob Davie is also vulnerable.