Today marks the halfway point in this Michigan State football list. Today’s game is in Indiana, where Cal Haladay’s pick helps the Spartan defense score.
Welcome back to the 25th volume of my 50 defining moments of the 2021 Michigan State football season. Today marks the rare defensive highlight as well as the halfway point in this list. It is the first time we see Cal Haladay making an impact on this list. I wonder if we could ever see him pop up again.
No. 26: Cal Haladay’s pick-six vs. Indiana
Why No. 26?
This was one of the many plays the redshirt freshman made during his first full season for the green and white. He recorded near 100 combined tackles along with multiple interceptions and forced fumbles. This play was only in the first quarter of the Indiana game, but this ended up being a slugfest for both sides. This was one of only three touchdowns scored in the entire game between both teams.
On this play, Cal Haladay appears to be part of a middle blitz and then backtracks. Indiana, starting backup Jack Tuttle after injuries to Michael Penix Jr., is caught unaware. With a third and medium situation, Scottie Hazelton takes advantage with the fake blitz. Haladay then reads Tuttle like a book, cutting off Indiana’s slant concept. Tuttle, expecting a blitz, throws to a wide-open Haladay. After booking it to the near sideline, Haladay has six points, and the Spartans lead 7-3.
Much like yesterday, a first-quarter play ends up high on this list. This play merited it based on the game impact as opposed to season impact, unlike moment no. 27. Without Haladay making this play, the Spartans lose. There is not a part of me that debates this. The Spartan offense had their first clunker of the season and needed a play by the defense to ensure the victory.
Indiana had been going through a tough year and many people expected an easy Spartan victory. Haladay helped the victory portion be correct, but this game was anything but easy. As mentioned when writing on Coghlin’s field goal, there was little to no Spartan offense the entire game.
Haladay is another counter to the argument that all Mel Tucker utilizes are transfer portal players. While the linebacker was a Dantonio product, Haladay ran the course and learned Tucker’s system to make it on the field and make these impactful plays on the season.
This play marks my halfway point for this series, as it was dynamic, but the early quarter detracts from the impact. Unlike another pick-six that will have its own article, this came with over three quarters of play remaining. As a result, the ranking for this play is lowered. Additionally, there are many more plays upcoming that impact the Michigan State football season than a first-quarter interception.
This play was a “wow” moment, with Haladay perfectly selling his blitz and then being in the right place at the right time. Indiana and the Old Brass Spittoon gave the Spartans yet another trophy to throw in their case at the end-of-season banquet.
Statistically, this was the first interception of Haladay’s career. It was also his first touchdown. He would record one more pick-six during this year, once that will have its own article later.