OK, we get it. Apparently, the Spartans really, really, really, really, really, really, really didn’t like being called “little brothers,” not even during the period when they played the role quite well.
The wounds are still there, as evidenced by their inexplicably cruel actions. Beating up on the Wolverines was one thing, and should have sufficed. But no, the Spartans decided to go all Lucy-versus-Charlie Brown and let the Wolverines believe this was the year it would finally happen, that they’d run up in the closing seconds and actually get to kick the football.
You know what happened next. All of America knows what happened next. There are pockets of researchers on the Galapagos Islands who know what happened next.
Michigan State yanked the ball away and swiped a 27-23 victory that was so momentous, we’re still trying to figure out what to call it, and what it means. It was Heartbreak and Hipbreak in the Big House, and it means Jim Harbaugh’s take-over of the state has been temporarily delayed. It also means Michigan State snapped its slide and is 1-6 against the spread this season (technically 7-0 overall), although it’s still looking for the all-important “quality loss” needed to impress the playoff selection committee.
I have no idea how many more horrible things Mark “No Apostrophe!” Dantonio plans to inflict upon his rival, but I’m positive he can’t top this one. The timing could not have been meaner, with 10 seconds left in a 23-21 Michigan victory, and the Wolverines hiking the ball to end the game so they finally could retrieve the long-lost Paul Bunyan Trophy.
Instead, an Australian punter named Blake O’Neill dropped the ball, and a Michigan State reserve named Jalen Watts-Jackson picked it up and ran 38 yards to the end zone, while Michigan players raced the other way chasing an imaginary punt as if it were a balloon. Watts-Jackson broke his hip as he scored, as the clock expired, as Spartans fans exulted and Wolverine fans snapped shut their iPads in disgust. It was so shocking, Harbaugh went to the White House two days later (that’s true) to be consoled by the Obamas (that’s sort of made up).
From what I understand, this is now considered the Greatest Win in Michigan State history, surpassing Michigan’s loss to Appalachian State and Michigan’s Hail Mary loss to Colorado. According to my sources, the celebration has continued unabated in East Lansing, with an open bar in every classroom and a statue of the star-crossed Watts-Jackson already erected — (pause) — and already defaced with yellow paint.
The Wolverines have tried very hard to hide their pain, and O’Neill handled it perfectly with judicious use of his cheerful Aussie accent. Thankfully, Michigan is on a bye, so equipment guys have time to replace the Wolverines helmet decals with crying-face emoji stickers. Fans also have ample time to find every conceivable way they were jobbed. (There was holding! There was pushing and shoving and illegal mayhem! What about all the other bad calls you never talk about?!)
The Wolverines are 5-2 (pending the Big Ten replay review) and remain in contention for their first bowl bid in 24 months, as long as they return to their previous strategy of not allowing points or muffed punts. The Spartans just keep rolling, on a 33-3 run and an equally impressive 32-3 in games not decided by muffed punts.
Clearly, the Spartans did not accept Mike Hart’s regrets last week for stirring up the whole little brother angle eight years earlier, back when it fit. Since then, the rivalry has turned in bizarre and dominating ways, with Michigan State winning seven of eight and refusing to be insecure anymore, while remaining maniacally obsessed.
The Wolverines spent the aftermath trying to figure out what happened, while the Spartans had the much-tougher task of trying to name the play. Dantonio said he’d call it “Rangers: Mission 4:10,” which is way too complicated to explain, but apparently doesn’t commemorate a Texas Rangers victory April 10.
Frankly, there are better names for the play, as you can tell by the many, many suggestions tossed around the Interwebs:
■ Punt Bunyan
■ Paul Puntyan
■ Blunder at the Big House
■ Blunder From Down Under
■ Watts Happened?
■ MSM — Michigan State Miracle
■ Rangers: Mission Impossible 4:10
■ Pipe Dream: 4:20
■ Muff the Magic Spartan
■ APuntCalypse Now
■ Gift Six
■ Hip Six
■ Little Brothers’ Lucky Day
All right, enough already. The point is, it isn’t over until the Spartans say it’s over, and they steadfastly refuse to declare it over. Seems a bit heartless to me, but I’m sure Lucy would be proud.
■ Indiana at Michigan State: The Hoosiers plan to learn from the Wolverines mistake and simply not punt. Their fling-it-around offense should score against a Spartans defense that’s so injured, it might field only nine players to conserve energy. The Spartans are unbeaten, but they can’t expect to reach the playoffs winning every game on a historic botched snap that flies miraculously to the closest player who races to the end zone as the clock expires in a 27-23 victory. Michigan State 27-23
■ Ohio State at Rutgers: In a shocking move, ABC opted to put this game on national TV. In another shocking move, Urban Meyer finally opted to play his best quarterback. With J.T. Barrett under center, 7-0 Ohio State is churning toward a Big Ten title showdown against unbeaten Iowa, as long as it doesn’t overlook Michigan State’s punt-block unit. Ohio State 38-14
■ Penn State at Maryland: The 2-4 Terrapins made the bold move to fire Randy Edsall and replace him with interim coach Mike Locksley, who’s best known for going 2-26 in two seasons at New Mexico. What, Charlie Weis wasn’t available? Penn State 27-17
■ Northwestern at Nebraska: Northwestern continues to build credentials as the worst 5-2 team in modern football history. Conversely, Nebraska might be the unluckiest 3-4 team in history, losing in every heartbreaking fashion imaginable, in ways that will never, ever be topped by any team anywhere. Uh, scratch that. Nebraska 40-17