50 defining moments from the 2021 Michigan State football season: No. 6

Michigan State's Matt Coghlin, left, celebrates after kicking the game-winning field goal against Nebraska during overtime on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.210925 Msu Nebraska 258a
Michigan State's Matt Coghlin, left, celebrates after kicking the game-winning field goal against Nebraska during overtime on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.210925 Msu Nebraska 258a /

Today, we are under a week until Michigan State football returns. One of the mainstays of the program for years was Matt Coghlin, and today is his walk-off.

Welcome to the 45th edition of my 50-article series highlighting the 2021 Michigan State football season. Today is the last play before the top five, and it certainly is a good one. In fact, this field goal by Matt Coghlin was the only walk-off play for the Spartans in the entire 2021 season.

For those of you who missed yesterday’s article, please click here. If you would like to look at previous articles of this series, feel free to scroll through my writing profile.

No. 6: Matt Coghlin’s 21-yard walk-off FG vs. Nebraska

Why No. 6?

This play is not exactly exciting, unlike yesterday’s moment or many of the other ones I have featured throughout the series. However, a chip shot, walk-off field goal should not be exciting. It was a simple kick that went through the uprights, which is exactly what the Spartan faithful prayed for on that struggle of a game under the lights. Without the heroics of Chester Kimbrough and Jayden Reed, this September night could have been a lot worse for the green and white.

After Kenneth Walker III’s run set up the Spartans inside the Nebraska 3, the Spartans could not get a touchdown on the next two handoffs. Walker was stuffed at the line on the first play, getting sent back two yards. After regaining a yard or so on the next play, Tucker elected to send out the field goal unit. In case of a bad snap or otherwise, holder Bryce Baringer could kneel the ball and give the Spartans one more shot.

This tactical abundance of caution was not needed. The snap and hold were perfect, and Matt Coghlin drilled the field goal through the uprights to send the home crowd happy and Michigan State football remained a perfect 4-0.

This play has a bit of credit to go around. To start, Kenneth Walker deserves the credit for turning this field goal from a 40-yard attempt into a chip shot. Since I spent all of yesterday crediting him, read that article if you would like to get a full breakdown on it.

The second group receiving full marks on this play is the snap and hold duo of Hank Pepper and Baringer. Both players were perfect on this play, with the freshman Pepper stepping up in the biggest play of his life up to this point and Baringer easily plucking the ball out of the air for a perfect hold.

The offensive line deserves a fair amount of credit here too. This play was a moment of desperation for Nebraska, as a successful kick ended the game. The line was able to prevent any players from running through, as well as thwart any Cornhusker attempt at being close enough to get a hand up to block the Coghlin kick.

Speaking of Coghlin, he deserves the most credit on this play. Since it is his final article in this series, I’ll write a bit more about him below.

Like I mentioned in my previous article about him, Matt Coghlin is a player who did not get enough credit for the final year he had at Michigan State. He had a powerful leg for kickoffs and was clutch in his final year. Many people remember him for his struggles, specifically against Arizona State in 2019, but Coghlin also drilled in game-winners against Penn State in 2017 and on this moment. Until his untimely injury, Coghlin had gotten his confidence back. This field goal moved Coghlin over .500 on the season, but this mark does not state much.

Despite his struggles, Coghlin had a short memory of the last kick. Gone was the kicker who would have the unfortunate miss in the clutch. With Coghlin gone, the kicker battle will be something to watch in the first two games of the season.

This play comes in at No. 6 for a few reasons. As mentioned earlier, this was the only walk-off, game-ending play for Michigan State football all of last year. This is the definition of perfect timing and clutch, which was what I looked for when creating this list. Nebraska was a fierce opponent, but the five plays in front of it all outweigh it in a few factors.

First, this play is clutch, but not dynamic. It is the same distance as an extra point, which you can see on any upcoming Saturday (or even today, as the college football and Big Ten season starts today).

Nebraska was a tough game, but they also do not have the added factor of being a major rival or bowl game. Also, the Cornhuskers finished the season 3-9, which lowers the impact a little when compared to 12-2 Michigan or 11-3 Pitt. Finally, the Spartans would not have been in position to kick this field goal without a clutch Jayden Reed play, which will have its own article in a few short days.

Statistically, this was Coghlin’s third field goal on four attempts this game. It moved him up to 5-for-9 on the season. This contributed to the year where he broke Michigan State football’s record for points scored in a career. This is certainly nothing to look over, as his company on this list is Morten Andersen.

Normally, I would give you a preview of what play to expect tomorrow, but I am unsure of which play I want to rank as my “lowest” in the top five. I’ll probably be consulting with Owen and some of my friends for which play should be ranked fifth.

Next. Predicting every statistical leader for MSU football. dark