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Ann Arbor, Mich. • After the snap was flubbed on a punt attempt and the ball went flying as the final seconds ticked down, Jalen Watts-Jackson found himself in perfect position to make an unforgettable play.
Watts-Jackson grabbed it and raced 38 yards into the end zone for a touchdown on the final play of the game, giving the seventh-ranked Spartans a shocking 27-23 win over No. 12 Michigan in one of college football's most unlikely endings.
"Football is a crazy, crazy game," Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said. "You can't hardly explain it."
With the Wolverines ahead 23-21 and 10 seconds left, Michigan punter Blake O'Neill bobbled a low snap, and spun around to try and make the kick. But he was hit, the ball popped free, Watts-Jackson caught it, avoided a few defenders in the final yards and made it into the end zone.
"A mistake was made," Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said somberly. "Mistakes were made. It's very unfortunate circumstances."
Watts-Jackson hurt his hip after the winning score, was carted off the field and Dantonio said he was taken to a hospital.
Michigan State (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) has won seven of eight in the series, its best stretch in more than a half-century. Michigan (5-2, 2-1) lost for the first time since opening the season with a setback at Utah.
The Wolverines were seconds away from sealing the win after Sione Houma ran for two TDs, Kenny Allen kicked three field goals and forcing the Spartans to turn the ball over on downs with 1:47 left at its 45.
The Spartans had only one timeout left and used it after the next snap. Michigan had two and Harbaugh used both, including one with 10 seconds left to set up the final punt and discuss all options.
"If you go for it, you leave them with a Hail Mary opportunity," Harbaugh said. "We could protect and throw a long pass. We ran through the scenarios and felt like the best decision was to punt. They didn't have any returners. It was a matter of punting it. We messed up."
Michigan State moved the ball up and down the field against a team that had shut out three straight opponents, picking up 386 yards mostly through the air and 20 first downs.
Connor Cook was 18 of 39 for 328 yards and a TD and Aaron Burbridge had nine receptions for 132 yards for the Spartans.
Jake Rudock was 15 of 25 and 168 yards and avoided turning the ball over.
In fact, both teams took good care of the football until the final snap.
It looked like a trick play was going to lead to a setback for the Spartans.
Dantonio, known for having the guts to call trick plays, called for a fake punt when no one was expecting it. Punter and backup quarterback Tyler O'Connor ran 7 yards on a fourth-and-8 from the Michigan State 31, turning the ball over on downs.
Michigan took advantage, moving to a 17-7 lead early in the third quarter on Houma's 1-yard run.