Michigan State’s Keith Nichol caught a 44-yard Hail Mary pass off a deflection as time expired for the winning touchdown in a 37-31 victory by the Spartans over previously unbeaten and No. 6-ranked Wisconsin in the Big Ten matchup.
The Michigan State wide receiver’s catch on the last-ditch heave by quarterback Kirk Cousins was not only one of the most memorable plays of the season, it also helped the then-No. 16 Spartans earn selection as the Week 8 winner of the United States Sports Academy’s 2011 College Football Game of the Year contest.
Referees initially ruled Nichol down on the 1-yard line but a review of the video overturned the call and gave Michigan State (6-1) the win. Wisconsin (6-1) had rallied to score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and tie the game at 31 with 1:26 left to play.
But with only 4 seconds left, Cousins rolled out to his right and threw the ball up for grabs into the end zone where it caromed off wide receiver B.J. Cunningham and bounced into Nichol’s arms. Nichol was actually just outside the end zone but he forced his way through three Wisconsin tacklers to barely cross the goal line.
A national panel of experts selects the Academy’s College Football Game of the Week. Each week’s winner is then considered for the College Football Game of the Year contest at the end of the regular season.
Daniel Moore, the American Sports Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA) 2005 Sport Artist of the Year, is commissioned by the Academy each year to create a painting honoring the selected College Football Game of the Year. The Academy donates the painting to the winning university, along with $5,000 for its general scholarship fund.