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Bates the man of the hour for Michigan State

Jeff Harrison / New Concord Leader Published: September 26, 2010 12:00 AM
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Maybe they should change the name of the play to "Little Muskies".

After all, Aaron Bates showed them that even a Wing-T quarterback can throw the pigskin now and then.

Bates, the senior All-American punter candidate at Michigan State University, stepped into the national spotlight late Saturday night when Spartans' coach Mark Dantonio -- a native of Zanesville -- put the outcome of a dandy with Notre Dame squarely in the hands of a fellow Muskingum Countian.

With his team trailing 31-28 after the Fighting Irish had kicked a go-ahead field goal in overtime, Dantonio made the call -- "Little Giants" -- the teams' moniker for a fake field goal (no doubt drawing its name from a 1994 family comedy film about a small town Ohio pee-wee football team) and instead of going for the tie with a 46-yard attempt, Bates -- the holder -- took the snap, stood up, calmly waited for tight end Charlie Gantt to clear his way past the Notre Dame defenders and lofted a perfect pass to complete a 29-yard scoring play to give the Spartans a 34-31 victory.

"We made the call 'Little Giants' and I said a little prayer," Dantonio said after the game. "Then I said 'let's go'".

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Bates, who of course, was also the quarterback at John Glenn High, wasn't surprised by the call in the least.

"We practice the play all the time...we really wanted to run it," he said. "Coach Dantonio wanted to run it a couple other times throughout the game, but the opportunity didn't come across.

"We had it on the right hash and they were playing the defense we wanted them to run," Bates continued, "and he (Dantonio) has some guts and he called it up. Senior tight end Charlie Gantt got open and he did a good job getting open. Originally, the play was called for freshman running back Le'Veon Bell, but he kind of got twisted up, which we wanted to happen. Charlie Gantt cleared up and I just threw it up there and knew that he would catch it."

What was he thinking?

"I wasn't really thinking, I just kind of reacted," he admitted. "I just threw it and as soon as it left my hand I was hoping that I didn't overthrow it."

As he has been for four years, Dantonio was complimentary of Bates' clutch performance.

"Aaron Bates, he's just been an unbelievable football player since he's come here," said the coach. "There's a reason that he was named captain. Not just because of his playing ability, but because of him as a football player and him in tough situations."

The toss even drew praise from MSU junior quarterback Kirk Cousins.

"It was a phenomenal throw," said Cousins. "I think that was the best throw of the day. I am not jealous, I am extremely happy. He won us the game. Just a little taste of why we are both captains."

Bates' heroics also brought some national attention to his home town.

Both game analyst Todd Blackledge and ESPN studio host Reece Davis informed the audience that he was a "former quarterback for the John Glenn Little Muskies in New Concord, Ohio."

Oh, by the way, Bates also performed his "regular" job -- punter -- extremely well under the national spotlight. He punted eight times in the game for a 45.4-yard average, including a 62-yarder and two punts downed inside the Notre Dame 20-yard line.

For the season, he's punted 16 times for a 45.8-yard average.

Although located in the heart of Ohio State Buckeye territory, New Concord stands proud of its Spartan hero today. The "Little Muskie" did good.

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