Ten seconds: The Big House was ready to party … then it wasn’t
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Disbelief.
Nothing else accurately summarizes the mood at Michigan Stadium on Saturday after perhaps the most incredible, what-just-happened ending in recent college football history resulted in Michigan State escaping with a 27-23 victory over Michigan.
What had been a party with a turnout of 111,000 10 seconds earlier had become a morgue. The Big House turned so quiet you could have heard a church mouse.
As I looked to my left, I saw a student get physically ill. It took about a minute before he lifted his head and said, "We lost?" He wasn’t sure he’d actually seen what he’d seen. As I looked to my right, I saw a family still sitting and staring, seemingly reactionless.
Much of the rest of the stadium was doing the same. When faced with something seemingly surreal, figuring out how to react takes time. Digesting the indigestable.
In this case, it took about 10 minutes. That’s when the majority of the crowd started to filter out, stunned to the point of near-speechlessness. It took me about another five minutes to garner the energy to make my way to the nearest exit, walking past some others who hadn’t reached that level of readiness (not that they could be blamed).
Ten seconds of game time earlier, the atmosphere was polar opposite. And the celebration was well-earned: All that was needed was a punt from Weber State graduate transfer Blake O’Neill to run out the final seconds and give Michigan its first win over Michigan State since 2011, its second in the series since 2007.
For all intents and purposes, it was over. The party was on.
And then it wasn’t.
It’s hard to believe one could experience so many emotions in such a short span, but as the ball glanced off O’Neill’s fingertips, squirted away as he tried to recover it and then was picked up by Michigan State’s Jalen Watts-Jackson, who weaved his way for 38 yards before lunging across the goal line, I (and more than 100,000 others) went from ecstasy to panic to horror to complete incredulity.
"It was the first time that I was completely shocked," said Dan Manore, a student who was in attendance with a friend visiting from Michigan State. "I’ve seen close games and bad losses, but never have I been so completely confident in a win and a few seconds later been assured of a loss."
Another Michigan fan reportedly had a heart attack on the last play and was said to be in stable condition at the hospital.
It was a stunned group that headed across campus, which featured none of the typically lively atmosphere that exists on a Saturday after a big game in Ann Arbor. Heads down, conversations few and far between. Frat houses silent, restaurants and bars with plenty of tables to be had.
Campus is dead. Never seen the streets this empty on a Saturday night.
— Max Cohen (@MaxACohen) October 18, 2015
Sunday will come; Jim Harbaugh will still be Michigan’s coach, and the program’s progress will still be undeniable. But prominent Michigan fan site MGoBlog posted a one-sentence reaction that could serve as the placeholder for every speechless Wolverines fan who zombied out of Michigan Stadium and into the darkness:
"I’ve never seen anything like that in my life, and I hope I never see it again."