EAST LANSING - Nearly two years after it happened, the play that gave Michigan State a thrilling 34-31 overtime victory over Notre Dame in 2010 still triggers fond memories for many members of the Spartan football team.
From senior guard Chris McDonald to junior running back Le'Veon Bell, the "Little Giants'' fake field goal play in which tight end Charlie Gantt caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from punter and holder Aaron Bates for the game-winner in the first extra session, still brings smiles to the faces of those directly involved in the execution of the play.
Even recruit-in-waiting at the time, redshirt freshman linebacker, now defensive end, Lawrence Thomas remembers the play fondly as he sat in the Spartan Stadium stands pondering his college choice after the game.
"I came up here with my parents and we were like, 'dang, this is a long field goal right here.' Then we see him pick the ball up and my heart just dropped. I was like, 'hold on, did something go wrong?' Then I see Charlie Gantt wide open and I'm like, 'oh no,' and then he caught it. We were all, just looking at the other recruits, saying, 'oh my God.' We all just wanted to be on the team right then and there, wishing we could go run on the field. Yeah, that was an exciting feeling right there.''
Despite all of the lingering feel-good moments still felt by the MSU players involved, there was one Spartan who not only never saw the play but didn't and doesn't really share in the excitement of the victory.
Fifth-year senior cornerback Johnny Adams, a sophomore at the time, had more important things on his mind that night while on the sidelines.
"I don't remember it actually,'' said Adams, who says he's still never watched a replay of the moment. "I was on the bench, so I didn't see the play. I was over there getting defensive adjustments, just in case we to go to (another) overtime. When it happened, I just went out there and tried to celebrate with my team. I didn't really know what we were celebrating. All I knew was that we got the win.''
Bell, a freshman at the time, who was actually supposed to catch Bates' pass, but caught up in the wash at the line of scrimmage, taking out two Irish players, and allowing Gantt to get open, said he has never watched the play again after that weekend.
Although, he still remembers every second of the play and his role vividly.
"I remember I was actually supposed to get the ball but when I ran out those guys kind of grabbed me,'' Bell said. "I ran over one guy and the other guy tried to grab me to make sure I didn't release out free. I'm going down with two guys with me, I see the ball in the air and I'm thinking he had thrown it to me so I tried to hurry up and get up, not realizing the ball was still going to go over my head but I'm still trying to get up and catch it. When I got up I actually saw Charlie (Gantt) running by himself, so I'm hoping, he's throwing it to Charlie. Then I saw Charlie catch the ball and once he caught it and he ran in the endzone, I was shocked and kind of paused. Then I ran to him and hugged him, grabbed him and ran into the band.''
For McDonald, who will line up for his last battle against Notre Dame, the fact that the play was even called is still the thing that sticks in his memory.
"It was a field goal and we ran out there and they gave us the signal. I was out there J'Michael Deane, who was our tight tackle at the time and I looked to him with big eyes with the, "I think we're running it,' look. Surreal. Charlie Gantt is one of my really good friends and just seeing him catch the ball and running it into the endzone, it's a memory I'll keep forever.''
SO WHAT: If defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi was looking for an early season gauge on the mindset of his defense, all he needs to do is listen to the reactions of junior linebacker Max Bullough and Adams concerning the fact that the Spartans enter Saturday night's showdown with Notre Dame yet to give up a touchdown in its first two outings, which resulted in wins over Central Michigan and Boise State.
In those two games, the opponents only points have come on touchdowns scored on passes thrown for interceptions that resulted in pick sixes.
"We're proud of it but we don't really focus on it that much. Our focus is on Notre Dame and trying to stop them,'' Bullough said. "We don't ever want to give up a touchdown all year but it's probably not going to happen. But that we haven't yet, yeah, we're proud of it.''
Adams was even less enthusiastic about something that hasn't happened since the 1965 National and Big Ten champions opened the first two games of their season with a 13-3 win over UCLA and a 23-0 win over Penn State.
"I mean, you know, it's a compliment to our defense and our defensive coordinator but like (Bullough) said, we're trying to go and be the best. So if they don't score, that's good but we've still got things we need to go out and improve on.''
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