The 2011 season was filled with more amazing plays than I can even recount — not only for the highlight level of the play itself, but the moments and significance. Combining the factors of significance and highlight worthiness, here is the first part of my list of the top ten plays of the season:
10. (a) Kirk Cousins finds B.J. Cunningham for a touchdown against Ohio State
Highlight: Cousins was forced to run away from the pressure, and rolled to his right. Cunningham broke across the field and Cousins threw deep downfield and Cunningham made a jumping catch and tapped both feet in the endzone before going out of bounds.
Significance: The lone Michigan State touchdown of the game in a low-scoring 10-7 game, this score gave MSU the long-elusive win in Columbus and against Ohio State.
10. (b) Keshawn Martin’s touchdowns against Michigan
Highlight: This touchdown featured Martin tightroping the sideline, getting drilled by multiple Michigan defenders
Significance: Martin’s score broke a tie game open and put Michigan State ahead, where it remained the rest of the game.
Highlight: On a play from the Michigan 13, Martin went in motion, headed toward the sideline as Cousins rolled out in his direction. Martin caught the pass, reached the first down marker and juked Michigan’s Jordan Kovacs at the six and dove toward the pylon as he was hit by two defenders again.
Significance: The second score extended the lead for the Spartans at the end of the third quarter.
9. Darqueze Dennard interception against Ohio State
Highlight: Dennard went up one handed and pulled the ball away from the Ohio State receiver and came down with it.
Significance: Ohio State had very few good scoring chances in the game, but this was one of them. Dennard ended the drive by making this interception at the MSU 6-yard line.
8. Martin leaping catch against Iowa
Highlight: Cousins was flushed from the pocket and pressured into throwing off his back foot and left the ball up for grabs. Martin reached back over a defender, hauled it in and took it 67 yards — juking a defender on the way — all the way to the Iowa 3-yard line.
Significance: It was a 14-7 game at the time, and MSU was facing a third and six in its own territory. An interception could have resulted, but Martin made the catch and took it deep down the other end of the field. It led to a Dan Conroy field goal and extended the MSU lead.
7. Kyler Elsworth — Third down stop and blocked punt against Wisconsin (Oct. 22)
Highlight: On third and two from the MSU 14, the sophomore linebacker stuffed Wisconsin running back James White after a gain of only one and forced the Badgers to kick a field goal — which was blocked. MSU scored on its next possession to take a 16-14 lead. Elsworth later was the player who blocked Brad Nortman’s punt — which was recovered for a touchdown.
Significance: The stop on third and two led to part of the big momentum shift, and the blocked punt was the peak of momentum in the game for the Spartans while giving them a 23-16 halftime lead.
6. Isaiah Lewis pick-six against Michigan
Highlight: Max Bullough and Denicos Allen brought pressure up the middle against Robinson, forcing an errant throw and Lewis intercepted it and took it back 35 yards to the house — holding the ball out to Robinson as he approached the endzone.
Significance: Sealed the victory against Michigan, putting the game out of reach at 28-14 and icing the cake on the fourth consecutive win.
Part two will follow tomorrow…