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Quite a turnaround for Michigan State

October 22, 2006|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

The last month has been a wacky one for Michigan State, and the theatrics continued Saturday when the Spartans staged the biggest comeback in NCAA Division I history for a 41-38 victory over Northwestern.

The Spartans, four weeks removed from an embarrassing fourth-quarter collapse in a loss to Notre Dame, trailed, 38-3, with 9 minutes 54 seconds left in the third quarter Saturday.

A 28-yard field goal with 18 seconds left by Brett Swenson put a topper on the 35-point comeback and put the Spartans in the record books. Before Saturday, Maryland and Ohio State shared the record for biggest comeback at 31 points.

"It hasn't really sunk in yet," quarterback Drew Stanton said.

Until Saturday, it appeared that the Spartans hadn't recovered from their 40-37 loss to Notre Dame on Sept. 23. They led, 37-21, at the start of the fourth quarter in that game.

The next week they lost, 23-20, against Illinois, a team that hadn't won a Big Ten Conference game in nearly two years and hasn't won one since.

After that came losses to Michigan and Ohio State, forgivable since those are the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the nation, but a loss to Northwestern and subsequent five-game losing streak probably would have been bad news in East Lansing.

"We saved our season," Michigan State center Kyle Cook said.

And maybe the job of Coach John L. Smith, who has been under heavy criticism during his team's four-game slide after it had won its first three games and was on the verge of an appearance in the top 25.

Fighting for a victory

Miami was embarrassed enough after getting caught up in one of the worst on-field brawls in college football history, but imagine the red faces on the Hurricanes if they'd lost to lowly Duke.

It nearly happened, but Miami's Willie Cooper intercepted a last-second pass at the goal line and the Hurricanes escaped with a 20-15 victory.

Last week's nasty brawl resulted in the suspensions of 13 Miami players for Saturday's game.

"There's a stigma attached to losing" to any opponent, Cooper said. "We came here to win championships. We face Duke like we face anybody else, with the eagerness and the want to win. Losing to anybody would be a downside to us."

But falling to the Blue Devils, losers of 15 consecutive games, after holding a 20-2 lead through three quarters, might have been a bit more embarrassing to a team that has been a regular in the national championship hunt.

"I don't think it had anything to do with what happened last week," Miami quarterback Kyle Wright said. "It's still a win."

Wish you weren't here

Minnesota was having a hard time selling tickets to its game against Division I-AA North Dakota State, so administrators offered a bribe, of sorts.

In order to purchase tickets to the Nov. 18 game against Iowa, fans were required to purchase tickets to Saturday's game against the Bison.

They might have been better off not doing so, because the fewer witnesses the better after Minnesota barely hung on for a 10-9 victory over a team that moved from Division II to Division I-AA only four years ago.

Minnesota, which was out-gained, 380-249, in total yards, blocked a field goal as time ran out in front of the largest crowd of the season -- an announced 62,845.

"To come out here in our home stadium and put on a show like that, it's really unacceptable," linebacker Mike Sherels said.

North Dakota State has 33 players from Minnesota on its roster and none were offered scholarships by their home-state school, so motivation was high for the Bison.

"Right from the get-go, we weren't going to be intimidated by any means," said Steve Walker, the North Dakota State quarterback.

Clutch performance

Shawn Bell threw for a school-record 394 yards with three of his five touchdown passes coming in the final 9:22 to rally Baylor to a 36-35 victory over Kansas.

After its third-biggest comeback ever, from a 35-17 deficit, Baylor (4-4, 3-1 in Big 12 play) has won three conference games for the first time and is .500 at its latest point in 10 years.

Bell, who completed 33 of 55 passes, set school records with five touchdown passes in a game and 18 for a season.

Sack exchange

Ameer Ismail tied an NCAA record with six sacks and returned an interception 29 yards for a score in Western Michigan's 41-27 win over Ball State. His six sacks tied a record set last year by Louisville's Elvis Dumervil against Kentucky.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Michigan State's record-setting comeback victory over Northwestern began with 9 minutes 54 seconds left in the third quarter when trailing, 38-3. The next-biggest comebacks in I-A history:

31 POINTS

* Maryland vs. Miami, Nov. 10, 1984. The Terrapins trailed, 31-0, with 12:35 remaining in the third quarter before rallying to win, 42-40.

* Ohio State vs. Minnesota, Oct. 28, 1989. After falling behind, 31-0, with 4:29 remaining in the second quarter, the Buckeyes came back for a 41-37 victory.

30 POINTS

* California vs. Oregon, Oct. 2, 1993. The Golden Bears were down, 30-0, in the second quarter but won, 42-41.

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Source: Michigan State athletics

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