EAST LANSING, Mich. — Keith Nichol caught a 44-yard Hail Mary on the game’s final play for a tiebreaking touchdown, giving No. 15 Michigan State a 37-31 win over No. 4 Wisconsin on Saturday night.
With the game tied and 4 seconds left, Kirk Cousins rolled out to his right and threw one last pass.
The ball went into the end zone but caromed off Michigan State receiver B.J. Cunningham’s facemask back to Nichol, who caught it just outside the end zone and struggled for the goal line, fighting two Wisconsin defenders and just barely breaking the plane.
The former backup quarterback was initially ruled short of the end zone, but officials overturned the call after a review, giving the Spartans (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) the win and knocking the Badgers (6-1, 2-1) from the ranks of the unbeaten.
After Nichol caught the pass, Michigan State players immediately started spilling onto the field, even though officials ruled that Wisconsin’s Mike Taylor had stopped him short. When the call was reversed and a touchdown was awarded, the celebration began again.
Russell Wilson had led the Badgers from 14 points down in the fourth quarter to tie the game with 1:26 left on a to 2-yard touchdown pass to Montee Ball.
The wild game – in which both teams blew two-touchdown leads – featured an even more memorable finish.
Wisconsin trailed 31-17 in the fourth quarter before Wilson ran 22 yards for a touchdown and made several spectacular throws on the move to set up the TD pass to Ball to tie it at 31.
Michigan State then survived a harrowing moment when Cousins fumbled deep in Spartan territory. Offensive lineman Dan France fell on the ball with 42 seconds left.
At that point, Wisconsin was eager to use timeouts, trying to get the ball back, but on second-and-20 from his own 24, Cousins found B.J. Cunningham for a 12-yard gain. The Spartans then picked up a first down on an 11-yard shovel pass to Keshawn Martin.
The drive appeared to stall at the Wisconsin 44, but the Spartans had time for one more play – one that will go down in Michigan State history along with last year’s fake field that beat Notre Dame in another extraordinary night game at Spartan Stadium.