Play of the Game: Michigan State fake punt

Scott Dochterman breaks the play down

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  • TIME: 15:00, fourth quarter
  • SCORE: Michigan State 20-14
  • DOWN AND DISTANCE: Michigan State faced fourth-and-7 at its 37
  • FORMATION AND PERSONNEL: Iowa Punt return unit, seven players head-up across line of scrimmage. One middle linebacker, two safeties 10 yards off the ball and one returner. Michigan State Seven spread across the line of scrimmage with gunner flexed to the left, three upbacks and a punter.
  • WHAT HAPPENED: With just a split-second of hesitation, Michigan State punter Mike Sadler took the snap and sprinted to his right 25 yards for a first down. It gave the Spartans a first down at the Iowa 38. Four plays later, Michigan State kicked a 49-yard field goal.
  • WHY IT WAS IMPORTANT: In a back-and-forth slugfest, it gave Michigan State a first down in Iowa territory and led to a two-possession lead.
  • THE QUOTE 1: "If the moment was right, then we'd do it," Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio said. "I just wanted to make sure that our players know that they're at risk on the football field. Theyre going to be at risk. The corners are at risk. Sometimes the coach needs to take a risk, too. Im going to step out there and do that. So 'Hey Diddle Diddle' worked. ... Its Sadler up the middle."
  • THE QUOTE 2: "We may never try to return one again," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. "It was our thinking try and get to the return, and to their credit they made a good call and that cost us a field goal."
  • THE QUOTE 3: "Every year they have some kind of gimmick or some kind of trick play that they do, that was one of them," Iowa safety Tanner Miller said. "I don't think we were really surprised by it. They executed better than we did on that play."
  • THE ANALYSIS: Iowa crashed the upbacks up the middle with Macon Plewa and linebacker Quinton Alston. The left side of its defensive line raced downfield because the Hawkeyes set up a punt return. Alston, the defender who had the best chance to stop the fake, was blocked by right upback Jamal Lyles, who created the edge for Sadler. It was wide open for 20-plus yards with Niko Law, George Kittle and Maurice Fleming all blocked by Spartans. It was a gutsy call. Had it backfired, Iowa would have had the momentum and the ball inside Michigan State territory.

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