2012 Outback Bowl Win Over Georgia Dantonio's Most Important

2012 Outback Bowl Win Over Georgia Dantonio's Most Important

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2012 Outback Bowl Win Over Georgia Dantonio's Most Important

Spartans epic triple overtime Outback Bowl victory over Georgia might be the most important victory of The Dantonio Era.

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It’s easy to forget since the success has been so impressive but when Michigan State gathered itself after the crushing defeat to Wisconsin in the 2011 Big Ten Championship Game, the Spartans were still very much in need of validation.

The Big Ten Co-Championship in 2010 seemed to be a breakthrough – but the 49-7 drubbing at the hands of Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide sobered up any visions of national respect.

That 2011 Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin was about as gut-wrenching of a loss as any Spartan team has ever endured and many wondered if Coach D was going to be yet another coach who would end up punch drunk after noble attempts to return Michigan State to greatness.

But, on that beautiful January 2nd of 2012, the Spartans showed up in Tampa for the Outback Bowl and squared off an SEC power that many believed would be a national championship contender in the 2012 season ahead.

Mark Richt’s Georgia Bulldogs were loaded and ranked 16th after coming up short in their own bid to claim the SEC crown.

Aaron Murray led a powerful and diverse offensive attack while throwing for more than 3000 yards and 35 touchdowns on the season.

Isaiah Crowell rushed for 850 yards in 2011 and combined with a collection of receivers – Malcom Mitchell, Tavarres King, and Orson Charles – to give Murray a ton of options.

But Mark Dantonio had his own roster of weapons with names like Kirk Cousins, Le’Veon Bell, Keshawn Martin, B.J. Cunningham, Max Bullough, Will Gholston, Jerel Worthy, Darquze Dennard and a whole slew of others becoming household names for all Spartan fans.

The day started horribly and at the half, State found itself in such a hole (16-0) that Kirk Herbstreit went on about how Michigan State didn’t belong on the same field as their SEC foe and that the Spartans weren’t ever going to get over any sort of hump with Dantonio at the helm.

Kirk Cousins had other ideas.

The Spartans didn’t get into the endzone until inside of eight minutes to play in the third quarter when Bell lumbered in from the 9-yard line and a two-point conversion turned the ball game into a 16-8 battle.

With just under two minutes left in the third quarter, Dennard snagged an errant Murray pass and took it all the way back for six – but a failed two-point conversion attempt left State trailing 16-14.

Tremendous individual defensive performances by Denzel Drone, Chris Norman, Denicos Allen, Anthony Rashad White, and so many others kept Michigan State right in the game as the two teams battled back and forth the rest of the way.

Monster tight end Brian Linthicum had a career day and after he rumbled fifty yards down to the Georgia ten yard line, Cousins hit Spartan warrior Keith Nichol on a 3rd and goal from the 7-yard line and even though State came up short on yet another two-point conversion attempt, the Spartans had the lead for the first time, 20-19.

Down 27-20, under two minutes to play in the game, and without any timeouts left, Cousins took over at his own 15-yard line and executed a two-minute drill like a surgeon and cemented his legacy as the greatest Spartan field general of all time.

When Le’Veon Bell hammered in in from inside the 1-yard line with nineteen seconds left and the extra point was good, Michigan State forced overtime.

Field goals were exchanged.

In the third overtime, with Georgia facing a 3rd and 10, Gholston sacked Murray, pushing the Bulldogs deep and forcing a very challenging 47-yard attempt by Blair Walsh to force a 4th overtime.

Anthony Rashad White got his gigantic paw up and blocked the attempt to secure one of the more dramatic – and impactful – victories in the history of Spartan football.

It marked the first time Mark Dantonio was able to notch a win in a bowl game.

It sent Kirk Cousins off to the NFL knowing he’d won his final game in Green & White.

It put a sensational capper on a sensational season, despite the back-breaking loss to Wisconsin in that Big Ten Championship Game.

And it set the Spartans on a course they’ve fought hard to stay on, even with the messy 2016 season.

There have been too many humongous wins during the Dantonio Era to even count.

But it’s no stretch to say that this Outback Bowl victory is the one that will go down as what really kicked this program into high gear and ushered in an era that looks like it will continue for many years to come….

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