5. Kurtis Drummond’s interception against Western Michigan
Defensive backs aren’t supposed to make one-handed catches – let alone running toward the ball and fully extended. Drummond did just that and earned himself a highlight that carried the rest of the year. In the first quarter, in which he already almost had an interception and ran another one back (See No. 4), Drummond made it all happen.
This interception came just inside Western Michigan territory as he skied for an overthrown ball by WMU QB Tyler VanTubbergen. It was the kind of play that just makes you say “wow.”
4. Jairus Jones’ interception against Western Michigan
Jones didn’t have an interception in his career. Michigan State didn’t have a defensive touchdown in 2012. Both those things changed in the first quarter of MSU’s season-opening win as Jones made a highlight play to get the first touchdown of the season.
Dropping back in coverage on third down, Jones jumped a short route to a tight end for a great read and play deep in Western Michigan territory. He returned it a few years before being tackled, but as he went down he lateraled the ball back to Drummond was running with him. Drummond raced in for a 21-yard touchdown and set the Spartans season in motion.
Jones thrives in first game at linebacker ($)
3. Denicos Allen’s back-to-back sacks against Michigan
Leading Michigan 16-6 late in the third quarter, Connor Cook threw an interception leaving the Wolverines with great field position for the first time all game and a change to make it a game. Allen was having none of that.
On first-and-10 from the MSU 41, Isaiah Lewis – and a convoy of Spartans – took UM quarterback Devin Gardner down for a loss of five.
And here comes Allen. Pressure came from Max Bullough and Mark Scarpinato, with Allen finishing the job for a loss of 9.
Not done yet, Allen came right back on third-and-25 with another sack – combined with Ed Davis – pinning 7 more yards back and forcing a punt.
It was the moment that made certain MSU was not losing the game and that the Spartans were too tough and physical defensively for Michigan to be on that field in November.
2. Denicos Allen’s fourth-down stop against Ohio State
Ohio State scored 24 straight points running the ball at will against Michigan State’s vaunted run defense, but all that went on the window when it came to the fourth quarter and closing out the game.
In Michigan State territory, Ohio State faced a fourth-and-1 and was going for it. Quarterback Braxton Miller took off to the right with blocking in front of him, but Allen shed the tight end and came through to wrap up Miller behind the line. Miller almost escaped, but Allen held on and brought Miller down for no gain and gave the ball back to the MSU offense with 5:41 to go and a 27-24 lead.
Minutes later, Jeremy Langford put the icing on the cake with a touchdown to send Michigan State to Pasadena.
1. Kyler Elsworth’s fourth-down stop against Stanford
Where else would this list end? The storyline was set up the moment Max Bullough was suspended and Elsworth started the game.
Cue the scene. Pasadena. Fourth-and-1 at the Stanford 34. 1:46 to go. Michigan State leading 24-20. Stanford’s power formation against Michigan State’s goal line defense.
Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan turned and handle the ball off to tight end Tyler Hewitt, who was met by Elsworth first flying over the top of the pile of linemen on the ground. Darien Harris came in and Shilique Calhoun helped, but Elsworth got the play under way.
Rose Bowl won. The former walk-on making the play. It couldn’t have ended any other way.
It is a play that will live in Michigan State lore forever.