EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State avoided a major letdown, keeping its hopes alive to play for the Big Ten title.
Brett Swenson kicked a 44-yard field goal with seven seconds left, lifting the 22nd-ranked Spartans to a 25-24 comeback win over Wisconsin yesterday.
Michigan State (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) came out flat and seemed to be headed for a 1-5 record in games following its last six wins against Michigan but took its first lead when the game was on the line.
Wisconsin (4-5, 1-5) hurt its chances of playing in a seventh straight bowl game after leading in the fourth quarter for the seventh time in nine games.
The Badgers led by 11 early in the fourth quarter, then fell apart just as they did with a 19-point lead in the Big Ten opener at Michigan.
Wisconsin had a chance to seal the victory, but a holding penalty negated a run to the Michigan State 4 and a first down. Instead, its 11th penalty pushed it back to the 40 and led to a punt.
The Spartans had the ball at their 17 with no timeouts and 1:19 left on the game-winning drive.
Brian Hoyer connected with Blair White twice on 20 and 32-yard receptions, and his last pass was to B.J. Cunningham over the middle for a short gain with the clock running.
The Spartans scrambled to get lined up for a field goal but were given a chance to set up because Wisconsin called a timeout with 12 seconds left. The Badgers called their last timeout, hoping to rattle the kicker only to watch Swenson make the field goal.
Michigan State is 8-2 for just the second time in four decades. If the Spartans avoid stumbling at home against Purdue, they will close the regular season at Penn State with a chance to at least share the Big Ten title for the first time since 1990.
NO. 20 MINNESOTA 17
MINNEAPOLIS - Brendan Smith grabbed a deflected ball and returned an interception 48 yards for a touchdown with 12 seconds remaining, sending Northwestern past stunned Minnesota and spoiling homecoming for the Gophers.
Mike Kafka replaced C.J. Bacher at quarterback for the Wildcats (7-2, 3-2) after a hamstring injury ended Bacher's streak of 25 straight starts. Kafka was unstoppable with the ball in his hands and his head pointed upfield, carrying 27 times for 217 yards - a school record for a quarterback - to make up for two costly interceptions.
With the ball at his own 29-yard line and 26 seconds left, Adam Weber dropped back to pass and looked for the Big Ten's leading receiver, Eric Decker. He got a hand on it, as did Northwestern's David Oredugba, and the ball was about to harmlessly hit the turf at midfield until Smith plucked it out of the air and zig-zagged his way to the end zone.
Illinois 27, Iowa 24
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois sweated through a fourth-quarter comeback by Iowa but held off the Hawkeyes to move within a game of bowl eligibility.
Illinois won on a 46-yard field goal by Matt Eller with 24 seconds left.
But the Illini (5-4, 3-3) relied on their defense, which sacked Hawkeye quarterback Ricky Stanzi six times, scoring a touchdown on one of them when defensive back Dere Hicks forced a fumble, scooped up the ball, and ran it in for a 24-9 third-quarter lead.
Stanzi, though, led the Hawkeyes on two fourth-quarter TD drives that tied the game at 24.
Iowa back Shonn Greene had 103 yards on 21 carries. The result leaves the Hawkeyes (5-4, 2-3) a win short of bowl eligibility.
Illinois' Juice Williams completed 22 of 37 passes for 272 yards, including a 50-yard strike to Fred Sykes. Williams carried 12 times for 30 yards, and Illinois finished with just 56 yards rushing.