79 Days Until Kickoff - BJ Cunningham's 79 Receptions In 2011

79 Days Until Kickoff - BJ Cunningham's 79 Receptions In 2011

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79 Days Until Kickoff - BJ Cunningham's 79 Receptions In 2011

When BJ Cunningham hauled in 79 passes in 2011, he set a single season school record.  But he did much more than just set a receiving mark – he helped will the program to a championship level.

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It’s a fair question to ask:

Has there ever been a more reliable and more clutch wide receiver in the history of Michigan State Football than B.J. Cunningham?

With 79 days until kickoff to the 2018 season, @MSU_Football continues its terrific 100-day countdown with a tribute to Cunningham and the 79 receptions he had in 2011.

The 79 receptions in 2011 led to Cunningham accounting for 1,306 yards (good for third all time for a single season at Michigan State) to go along with 12 touchdowns (tied for first in the Big Ten in 2011).

The numbers look great on a piece of paper – but his 1,306 yards can, perhaps, be put into further perspective when we look at the Spartan receivers who amassed 1,000 yards in a season: Charles Rogers, Devin Thomas, Plaxico Burress, and Courtney Hawkins.

Cunningham achieved rarified air status as a Spartan.

When we take a look at some of the intangible ways in which Cunningham gave Kirk Cousins confidence when the Spartans were facing tough 3rd down situations, we see a Spartan who contributed substantially to the growth of Dantonio’s program.

It seems like a lifetime ago now, but Kirk Cousins and B.J. Cunningham were fighting hard to get the program over a hump it had not been able to get over for far too long and victories over Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue, and UMAA were meaningful accomplishments.

Within the midst of those hard-fought victories were so many key, tough 3rd and 4th down conversions – and so many times those conversions featured Cousins finding Cunningham.

One of the more underrated wins over the entire Dantonio Era came on October 2nd, 2010 when the #24th ranked Spartans hosted the #11 Badgers.

Michigan State was still very much in the process of climbing the Big Ten mountain and on a rainy afternoon in East Lansing, with the crowd sensing the opportunity to climb up another rung on the ladder was right there for the taking, the Spartans had plowed their way all the way to the 1-yard line late in the 4th quarter with a 27-24 lead over the Badgers.

On 4th down and goal, Dantonio sent Cousins and the offense back on to the field to put the nail in the coffin after a tense, back and forth game.

Dantonio saw a chance to not only put a vital game away, he saw a chance for a program to gain major confidence in its ability to finish a game off with power and emphasis.

On 4th and goal with the potential for a big, important page to be turned by the Spartan program, the offense trotted out and executed this play (captured on great, fun home video):

That victory – propelled by Cunningham – over Wisconsin was a major step towards Michigan State’s Big Ten Championship in 2010.

And, a year later, when the Spartans traveled to Columbus, B.J. Cunningham was an absolute beast all afternoon in what proved to be yet another major step for the program, a 10-7 win over Ohio State that led to a Divisional Championship and an appearance in the very first Big Ten Championship game.

Take a look at Cunningham’s performance in Columbus against Ohio State during that 2011 season – and pay particular attention to two amazing 3rd down conversions that accompanied his fantastic touchdown catch…

The first 3rd down conversion occurs at the 1:50 mark in this highlight clip and showcases the way B.J. simply wills his way past the first down marker on a key 3rd and 6 with the clock winding down in the first half.

The second occurs at the 2:20 mark in the highlight clip as the Spartans face 3rd and 8 with 1:34 to play in the 3rd quarter while clinging to a 7-0 lead.  On this play, Cousins finds Cunningham down the sideline for a 48-yard gain that put Michigan State in position to convert what wound up being the field goal that won the game:

Not enough can be said about B.J. Cunningham – and, the numbers sure do say a lot.

But, from this perspective, it was the reliability and the strength on key 3rd down situations that gave Kirk Cousins confidence and allowed the Spartans to extend drives that wound up being major moments in the growth of the program.

And so, thanks, @MSU_Football, for commemorating the 79-day mark by celebrating Cunningham’s amazing 2011 season.

Maybe we’ll be celebrating Felton Davis or Cody White breaking Cunningham’s mark this coming season…

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