Former Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio carefully chose his top 25 favorite plays during his tenure.
Former Michigan State Football coach Mark Dantonio is arguably the greatest coach in program history. Dantonio is highly regarded by all Michigan State fans even with the poor state the program was in when he retired. He gave us some of our programs greatest moments in history. Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl, College Football Playoff and countless massive regular season wins are just a few of the great moments he brought us.
Recently Dantonio sat down with Michigan State and the Big Ten Network. During this meeting, Dantonio gave his Top 25 plays during his Michigan State tenure. This list was made solely by Mark Dantonio. He not only looked at the play itself, but also the impact it had on our program.
Lets dive into them 25-1:
25. Brian Lewerke TD to Madre London at Michigan (2017)
In a game that Michigan State was not expected to win, this was a perfectly run screen pass that scored easily with two linemen leading the way.
24. Connor Cook game-winning TD pass in Cotton Bowl (2015)
This game is one of the greatest in Michigan State history. Michigan State defeated Baylor in the Cotton Bowl after being down by 20 points in the fourth quarter. This pass was the game-winning touchdown in this classic.
23. Brian Hoyer third TD pass to Devin Thomas vs. Penn State (2007)
The play itself seemed pretty normal on its own. But three touchdowns to the same receiver in a win against Penn State definitely deserves to be on this list.
22. Three touchdown runs vs. Michigan
Nothing is sweeter than scoring against Michigan. In the No. 22 spot, Dantonio selected three key touchdown runs in wins against Michigan over the years. This includes touchdown runs from Edwin Baker, LeVeon Bell, and Jeremy Langford.
21. Three touchdowns vs. Wisconsin (2011)
This game is another all time classic in Michigan State history. This selection includes two touchdowns from Keshawn Martin and one from BJ Cunningham. These massive plays all helped setup the magical ending to this game. More to come later on this one.
20. Three interceptions for touchdowns
Dantonio selected three interceptions that were returned for touchdowns in the No. 20 spot. The first was by Darqueze Dennard in the 2012 Outback Bowl victory against Georgia. The other two were massive in big wins over Michigan. Dantonio prioritized the Michigan game ever year, so it is no surprise seeing plays against them all over this list.
19. Game-winning FG vs. Wisconsin (2008)
This game was not as big as others, but a game winning field goal is always exciting. In this one, Brett Swenson hit a 44-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Badgers.
18. Defensive stop to beat Iowa (2008)
I always think defensive plays deserve more love. In this selection, Adam Decker stops Iowa on fourth-and-1 to seal a Spartan victory over the Hawkeyes.
17. Fake punt at Iowa (2013)
Mike Sadler is one of the greatest punters in Michigan State history. In this play, he showed off his legs in a different way. To start the fourth quarter, he successfully ran for 20 yards to pick up a key first down in a very tight game.
16. Another TD run at Michigan (2008)
This play was one of the biggest in this rivalries history. A long run by Javon Ringer helped lead Michigan State to victory for the first time in Ann Arbor since 1990.
15. Blocked FG in 3OT Outback Bowl vs. Georgia (2012)
Another special teams play, this time a blocked field goal in triple-overtime to beat Georgia in the Outback Bowl. I believe winning this game was a turning point for our program, and this play sealed the win.
14. Acrobatic interception vs. Iowa (2015)
Everyone remembers how unbelievable this play was. In the 2015 Big Ten Championship Game, Demetrius Cox pulled off an interception I have never seen before. After a fellow teammate broke up the pass in the end zone, the ball ended up lying on his back. Cox saw the ball, scooped it off his teammates back and helped kill a promising Hawkeyes drive.
13. Negative-48 rushing yards vs. Michigan (2013)
This is another combination of multiple plays. In Michigan States 2013 domination over Michigan, the Spartans’ defense held Michigan to negative-48 rushing yards. Yes, you read that correctly. That is a number I doubt we ever see again.
12. Larry Caper TD run vs. Michigan (2009)
Larry Caper’s 24-yard overtime touchdown run is one of my personal favorite plays of all time. Nothing about the play itself was memorable, but the meaning behind it is everything. This was the first time Michigan State won consecutive games over the Wolverines since 1967. This game also helped springboard the Spartans into their dominant run over Michigan.
11. Brian Hoyer TD pass to Blair White at Michigan (2008)
10. Connor Cook TD pass to Tony Lippett in Rose Bowl (2014)
The greatest stage in all of college football saw the Spartans beat Stanford in the 100th Rose Bowl. This touchdown pass ending up being the game-winning score in one of the greatest games in program history.
9. Blocked FG in Cotton Bowl vs. Baylor (2015)
This is another play from Michigan State’s historic comeback win against Baylor in the Cotton Bowl. Marcus Rush blocked the Baylor field goal attempt to keep Michigan State only down by six. This setup the game-winning drive at the end of the fourth quarter.
8. Walk-off Hail Mary vs. Wisconsin (2011)
7. Jeremy Langford TD run vs. Ohio State (2013)
In the 2013 Big Ten Championship game vs Ohio State, Jeremy Langford sealed the Spartans victory with this long touchdown run. This touchdown put the Spartans up by 10 with two minutes left in the game, ending Ohio States chances and clinching a trip to the Rose Bowl.
6. Walk-off FG at Ohio State (2015)
This play not being higher shocks me. On a night when star quarterback Connor Cook was out injured, Michigan State was still able to pull off the upset road win against Ohio State. Michael Geiger knocked in the winning field goal as time expired. Afterwards, he celebrated with his iconic windmill celebration that I’m sure you all are replicating right now.
5. Little Giants (2010)
I would argue this play is easily the best play call in Dantonio’s career. In overtime against Notre Dame, Michigan State lined up for the tying field goal to force a second overtime. Instead, they faked the field goal, threw the touchdown pass and the rest is history.
4. Trouble with the Snap (2015)
I, for one, am shocked this play isn’t No. 1. Do I even need to remind you what this play is? Jalen Watts-Jackson returned the muffed Michigan punt for a touchdown in 2015 as time expired to win the game. This play will be remembered forever.
3. Game-winning TD vs. Iowa (2015)
Who can forget the iconic final drive against Iowa in the 2015 Big Ten Championship Game. In a drive that was 22 plays long and took over nine minutes, LJ Scott capped it off with his short touchdown run. The mantra that season was “reach higher” and that’s exactly what he did on the run to avoid a Hawkeye tackler. College Football Playoff, here we come.
2. Fourth-down stop vs. Ohio State (2013)
This is the play when we knew we were Rose Bowl bound. Denicos Allen stopped Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller on fourth down to seal the Spartans victory. I always think defensive plays deserve more credit and I’m glad Dantonio put this play so high on his list.
1. Rose Bowl-clinching stop (2014)
Did you guess this play was coming? Kyler Elsworth’s fourth-down stop against Stanford in the 2014 Rose Bowl is Mark Dantonio’s top play from his tenure. There is no bigger non-playoff stage in college football than the Rose Bowl, so it is no surprise to see the game-winning play at No. 1.
To see the full list on Twitter with a video highlight of each play, click the link below.
This will be fun.
He ranked them, 25-1, and we're threading them here. ⚡
— Michigan State on BTN (@MichiganStOnBTN) May 31, 2023
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