Team of Destiny: The 2015 Magic Carpet Ride


Photo: Bradley T. Allen/Impact

Matt Mika

Lucas Oil Stadium is packed to the brink with a mix of colors. Black and gold, green and white fill the seats all the way to the top – to the point where the colors become lost into darkness. The sound is deafening. It swallows everyone who is on the field.

The setting is electric. The winner goes on to the College Football Playoff. Meanwhile, the loser plays in one of the New Year’s Six bowl games. With 33 seconds left on the clock, true freshman LJ Scott extended the dream.

On third and goal, Scott was stopped initially. But with a third effort, his strength and heart allowed him to stretch the ball over the goal line for the go-ahead touchdown.

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Lined up as the deep man, Scott was given the ball but fought off an initial tackle behind the line of scrimmage. Once he bounced off the hit, three Iowa defenders closed in on him. With a leg drive that would impress Bo Jackson, the first year running back kept pushing towards the end zone. When a fourth Hawkeye came to jar the ball loose, Scott performed a swim move with the ball to avoid the possibility of a fumble.

The end result, touchdown.

“I’m proud of the guys. We kept playing the whole game, the whole 60 minutes,” Riley Bullough said.

Spartan nation erupted while the Hawkeyes faithful fell silent. Even though there was a larger number of Hawkeyes fans in the stadium, the explosion from the MSU corner consumed the entire building.

“We knew we had to execute each play. You know, we knew each play was big and that we had to stay with the ball. I was just trying to make a big play for my brothers. We knew what we had at stake,” LJ Scott said.

Just like that, the dream was alive and well.

“We are a tough unit and throughout this year, nothing has been easy for us,” center Jack Allen said. “We had to push through in those last minutes. We’ve done that all year, and there were haters at times, but we just cared about the guys in that room and kept pushing for each other.

Standing on the sideline, Vin Scully’s voice rang in my head, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”

That was the call made after Kirk Gibson (who attended Michigan State) hit one of the most famous home runs in Major League Baseball history in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

“We found a way. Great drive at the end of the game, nine‑minute drive, clutch plays by our quarterback, defensively played lights out. I’m just so happy,” head coach Mark Dantonio said.

Time and time again, the Spartans have been on the brink of giving every Michigan State fan a heart attack.

Beginning with the second game of the 2015 campaign, the Oregon Ducks were driving late in the game to take the lead. On fourth and 16, and with just over one minute left on the clock, Vernon Adams, Jr. avoided the heavy pressure and threw low to give the Spartans a 31-28 victory.

Then, Michigan State headed into Ann Arbor to face the maize and blue. The heated rivalry between the two schools grew with the hiring of Jim Harbaugh and the quick successful start the Wolverines had.

Of course, Michigan State had to scratch and claw their way back in the Battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy as well – all the way to the end.

It was fourth and long. Connor Cook fails to find his man for a first down, and the Big House believes they have a sure victory in their hands, right? Not so fast.

With ten seconds left, Michigan’s punt unit failed to safely boot the ball away and Jalen Watts-Jackson scooped up the loose ball and sprinted into the endzone only to be injured on the play as well.

The improbable play would be rather deemed as Rangers: Mission 4:10.

Drama seemed to follow everywhere the Spartans went this season, as the legendary victory over the Wolverines was the tip of the iceberg.

Only a few short weeks later, Michigan State headed into enemy territory once again to square off with the defending national champions, preseason favorites to win back-to-back titles, and undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes.

With MSU’s starting quarterback sidelined due to injury, all seemed lost for the Spartans.

Yet, with a gutsy performance by quarterbacks Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry, Michigan State in actuality dominated every statistical category of the game – putting themselves in position to steal one in the Horseshoe.

As time expired, Michael Geiger kicked the biggest field goal in his life ending the longest winning streak in the nation.

This was yet another dramatic finish for the Spartans, and Geiger sprinted towards the opposite endzone motioning his arm in a windmill while the rest of the team chased after him.

“We built a foundation. There’s so many people. I can’t tell you how many Spartans were here who laid it out. This is more than one year. This is the accumulation of a lot of people, a lot of work,” Dantonio said.

The entire season has been a ride of twists and turns. However, that’s what makes college football great. The unexpected happens every week. The only question is when and where will it happen? For the Spartans, it seems magic and memories follow wherever they roam, since the carpet ride towards a National Championship is close within their grasps.