Five takeaways from Michigan-Michigan State 2015

Michigan fans couldn't believe their eyes as Michigan State came away with an improbable victory Saturday.

Rick Osentoski/Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

ANN ARBOR, Mich. –€“ Paul Bunyan had already packed his bags for a move from East Lansing to Ann Arbor.

A Michigan victory over No. 7 Michigan State was just 10 seconds and a clean punt away Saturday evening at the Big House.

If Blake O’Neill grabs the snap and booms the ball down field like he did all day long — he actually had one punt go 80 yards — the No. 12 Wolverines would almost certainly be celebrating their first victory over the Spartans since 2012 and just their second win in eight tries.

Instead, O’Neill bobbled a low snap, whiffed on the kick, and the Spartans’ Jalen Watts-Jackson nabbed the ball and ran it all the way in for a 38-yard score as time expired.

But it was true all right. The Spartans miraculously remain the champs of the state of Michigan for another year, and Mark Dantonio gets the first KO in the coaching battle against Jim Harbaugh.

Here are five things we learned from Michigan-Michigan State 2015:

WINNING UGLY: It hasn’t been pretty for the Spartans this season, but each Saturday they just find a way to win. In most cases, senior quarter Connor Cook pulled the rabbit out of the hat in the end. This week, Cook was pressured all day, and although he finished with 328 yards and a touchdown, he was just 18-of-39. The Spartans defense kept them in it this week — Michigan was held to just 230 total yards — ensuring another photo finish … albeit a bizarre, unlikely one.

PEPPERS COMING OUT: Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers did his best Charles Woodson imitation against the Spartans, getting playing time on defense, special teams and offense. Always a stalwart in the secondary, he had 164 all-purpose yards, including a 49-yard kickoff return, a 34-yard punt return and a 28-yard reception.

ALMOST DEADLY DECISION: Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, known as a bit of a risk-taker, nearly had one of those decisions to "go fort it" bite the Spartans big time. On fourth-and-8 from their own 31, the Spartans faked a punt and were stopped short, handing the ball to the Wolverines on the MSU 38. Michigan then marched in for a touchdown and 17-7 lead early in the third quarter.  

STILL UNDEFEATED: As Dantonio has said time and again, it really doesn’t matter how you win, just that you do. And his Spartans are now 7-0 and remain in the picture for a Big Ten title and a national championship. "In the big picture, our dreams are still alive," Dantonio said in an on-field TV interview after the game. Indiana (4-3) visits Spartan Stadium next Saturday.