EAST LANSING — By the time the Michigan football team lined up at Michigan State’s nine-yard line, the comeback wasn’t just on, it was nearly completed.

Down 21-7 entering the fourth quarter, the Wolverines had scored a quick touchdown to bring the game within a touchdown and then recovered a fumble on the Spartans next drive. After seven plays, No. 11 Michigan was on the brink of tying the game but found itself in a 4th-and-1 situation with six and a half minutes left.

The Wolverines lined up in the I-formation as the Spartans stacked the line of scrimmage. Junior quarterback Denard Robinson motioned sophomore running back Stephen Hopkins out of the backfield and had him line up at wide receiver. Redshirt sophomore running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, lined up at fullback, remained in the backfield.

“We had what we wanted,” Robinson said after the game. “We called it at the right time, we just got to execute.”

But for Michigan coach Brady Hoke, the “right time” was actually a little too late. He tried to call a timeout. The play clock was running down to zero.

“I think we got away with one, to be honest with you,” Hoke said.

They got the play off, but they certainly didn’t get away from anybody. Michigan State ran a cornerback blitz. Robinson faked the handoff to Toussaint and looked to throw.

Spartan cornerback Johnny Adams went in untouched and sacked Robinson just after he completed the play fake for a loss of 10 yards.

“I (saw) him at the last second,” Robinson said.

Added Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi: “I just like to bring the corner. We knew what personnel group they were in and kind of had an idea what they like to do out of it.”

Hoke said he was the one who chose to go for it, but offensive coordinator Al Borges called the play. And the play call was questioned immediately. But fifth-year senior David Molk is one of the best centers in the Big Ten and Robinson hadn’t had a problem gaining only a single yard in the past.

He converted on a 4th-and-1 earlier in the drive. Coming into the game Michigan had converted on 3-of-4 fourth down attempts on the season. Each came through running the ball, including two by Robinson. The only failed conversion came when Robinson threw an interception against Eastern Michigan.

So why run a play action?

“We’ve gotten many first downs with that play, same play, where the guy jumps and you send one guy in motion,” Hoke said. “A bunch of touchdowns too. … We’ve been very successful, really in the last two years on the same play.”

Although the play ended Michigan’s best opportunity, it wasn’t the Wolverines’ last opportunity. The Michigan defense got a three-and-out after forcing an incompletion on a 3rd-and-4.

After struggling the entire game, Robinson had a chance to redeem himself. He had 65 yards in front of him and 4:40 left in the game. On the first play of the drive, Robinson took the snap in the shotgun. Michigan State brought another blitz, this time up the middle. Robinson hurried in his throw to junior running back Vincent Smith, who was in the slot.

The ball sailed past Smith before he could turn his head around, and went right into the hands of Spartan safety Isaiah Lewis.

“It wasn’t nothing that we didn’t see,” Robinson said. “It’s just, we weren’t on the same page.”

Lewis stormed down the sideline and into the endzone to give Michigan State their final 14-point lead.

With two offensive plays the comeback remained unfinished, but Michigan was.

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