The Michigan Punt Blunder — 4 Winners, 4 Losers

Normally, I'd follow up the college football weekend with an extensive "4 Winners, 4 Losers"-style analysis on the entire weekend that was, but sometimes there's one game, one play that is so historic in nature that it clearly overshadows everything else that happened during the weekend. Such is the play that decided the battle between Michigan State and Michigan in the Big House in Ann Arbor on Saturday afternoon.

In case you were abducted by pirates or sequestered in the basement of a pawn shop somewhere all weekend, here is the play…4th and 2, Michigan with the ball, leading 23-21, on the Michigan State 47 yard line with ten seconds remaining and Michigan State out of timeouts…here's the play...

Your final score…Michigan State 27, Michigan 23.

I mean…what was the percentage chance of Michigan State winning that game when the ball was snapped? 0.0001 percent? Worse? Literally, the ONLY thing that could have given the game to Michigan State happened. Even if Michigan punter Blake O'Neill fumbles the ball and falls on top of it, Michigan State probably has six seconds left to throw a Hail Mary or try a super-long field goal.

In retrospect, given that all O'Neill had to do was get off the punt regardless of distance (since merely punting it in the air would have burned off most of the clock), lining up in quick kick formation may have made more sense, but hell, that was a perfect snap! 

So how about a quick "4 Winners, 4 Losers" on this one play...


4. Jalen Watts-Jackson
Good for Watts-Jackson for keeping his head down and going for the touchdown. I thought, with all the clutter in front of him, he might go down and set up for the last-second field goal, but he would've been out of time, in all likelihood. Also, good for Watts-Jackson for never having to buy another drink with his own money ever in East Lansing. (Small downside: Watts-Jackson fractured and dislocated his hip on that final play, so he's done for the year. Once he rehabs the injury, I'll be curious what his answer to the question "Was it worth it?" is. Hell, I'm curious NOW.)

3. Mark Dantonio

The direct route to the College Football Playoff remains intact, despite as underwhelming a 7-0 start as we've seen from a team that's spent the entire season in the top six. 

2. Michigan State bettors
For the first time this season, the Spartans rewarded their backers in Vegas, covering the spread and ending their very odd 0-6 ATS streak (while going 6-0 SU). 

1. Sad Fan Cam


4. Overzealous Michigan fans
Naturally, after such a catastrophic failure, the hate would flow among Michigan backers. Courtesy of ESPN.com:

Fifth-year punter Blake O'Neill received a number of hate-filled mentions on social media Saturday night after making a mistake that led to a touchdown on the final play of a 27-23 loss to rival Michigan State.

"I'm asking that our community not lose this game twice by condoning thoughtless comments," Hackett said in the letter. "... Today I awake to the shocking reality that our community who care so much about this program would send hurtful, spiteful and vicious comments to one of our students. To be clear, such comments come from a small minority, none of whom are reflective of our institution."

Death Threat College Football Fan is about as low a sports life form as there is, right behind Belligerent Hockey Parent and just ahead of Greg Hardy.

3. All those "Michigan for Playoff winner" futures bet ticket holders
Before the season, several sports books complained about how exposed they were when a slew of Michigan backers bet on the Wolverines at 100/1 to win the College Football Playoff, a bet that looked silly before the start of the season and looked much less silly with ten seconds left in the game on Saturday. Now, it looks silly again.

2. Television
If Michigan holds onto win that game, it means that Ohio State's games with both teams, Michigan and Michigan State, are de facto playoff games, not to mention every Michigan State and Michigan game having elimination-level significance the rest of the way. Now, the Big Ten is really just a one-game season on November 21 between Ohio State and Michigan State. 

1. WZZM Channel 13 
This station in Grand Rapids learned a rough lesson in reporting prematurely that one team won the game…


Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.

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