Ann Arbor — Bittersweet might not explain well enough how Saturday went for Jalen Watts-Jackson.
The Michigan State redshirt freshman safety was the hero for the Spartans, scooping up a fumbled punt and running 38 yards for the winning touchdown as time expired, giving No. 7 Michigan State a 27-23 victory over No. 12 Michigan at Michigan Stadium.
But as his teammates piled on him in celebration, Watts-Jackson was on the ground with a serious hip injury, one that sent him to the hospital and almost certainly ends his season.
“Jalen Watts-Jackson, great job scooping it up,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said after the game. “I think he dislocated his hip, or has a broken hip. He’s at the hospital right now. On that particular play as he went in the end zone, that’s what happened, or before the play, I’m not sure what. By the time I got there he was down. But outstanding play by him.”
It was difficult to tell when exactly Watts-Jackson was injured. With so many players following him into the end zone, determining if he was hurt on the play or in the celebration was nearly impossible.
Freshman safety Grayson Miller, who put pressure on Michigan punter Blake O’Neill on the play, had a hard time figuring out what happened.
“Big dogpile. I don’t know what his injury is,” Miller said. “I just saw him laying on the ground. ... I really have no idea. I don’t know what he hurt or how he got hurt.”
As the celebration was winding down and more players were aware of the injury to Watts-Jackson, they gathered in the end zone.
“We went over there and prayed for him,” Miller said. “I know he was celebrating at some point. At some point, he was hurt.”
Watts-Jackson has appeared in all seven Michigan State games this season, mostly on special teams. He was in the competition to start this week before Miller and freshman Khari Willis got the nod.
“I feel for him,” junior defensive back Demetrious Cox said. “He was in the mix with the freshmen to play. I feel for him. It was a sacrifice I’m sure if he had to go back he would make again.”