Jones looks to rebound against Spartans

When Daniel Jones stepped onto the field for his first collegiate action, it was a rough experience. Michigan State senior receiver B.J. Cunningham ran laps around the redshirt frsehman cornerback. Jones is looking to rebound against the Spartans this weekend.

It seemed like the ball hung in the air forever. Devin Gardner had lofted a spiral 50 yards and Daniel Jones was in perfect position to defend it.

"I was the first guy up, and I actually hit the ball," Jones recalled. "In my mind, I thought I had made the play to end the game."

Then, the unthinkable happened. The deflection caused by Jones fell into the hands of Michigan receiver Roy Roundtree, falling to the turf as he corralled the football.

The 53-yard reception set Michigan with the game-tying field goal, forcing overtime. The Wolverines would beat Northwestern in the extra period.

Northwestern aligned in a nickel package, with five defensive backs on the field. It was designed to prevent a game-tying field goal. Michigan had other plans, electing to gamble on the drive's first play.

As for the attempt by Jones, Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald defended his young cornerback's effort.

"He went up to make a play," Fitzgerald said. "I can't fault a guy for going up to make a play."

The replay is etched into the minds of Wildcat fans everywhere. A thrilling victory turned into a stunning defeat. Jones nearly saved the game, but it wasn't meant to be.

"It's another one of those luck-of-the-bounce type plays," Jones described. "I couldn't believe that he caught it."

Following the final whistle, Jones offered congratulations to Roundtree for his game-changing reception. He was impressed by the receiver's performance.

But Jones was ready for the challenge of battling Roundtree, even as a fill-in for injured starter Nick VanHoose. That was not the case when he was forced into action last season against Michigan State. When Jordan Mabin suffered a shoulder injury, Jones was called upon.

Michigan State receiver B.J. Cunningham took advantage of the redshirt freshman's inexperience, posting 120 yards and two touchdowns while matched against him. One year later, Cunningham has graduated and Jones is better prepared for action.

This year's Spartans offer a different challenge, posed on the ground and through the air. Bruising tailback Le'Veon Bell has amounted for 1,249 yards and 10 touchdowns. Meanwhile, quarterback Andrew Maxwell has made steady improvements throughout the season.

"It's a traditional type of offense," said Jones. "They like to run the ball, like to pass the ball. They're diverse."

Jones is eager for the chance to rebound against the Spartans.

"I'm definitely wanting to come out and have a great game against them," he said.

Jones will hope the bounces go his favor this time.

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers for Big Red Report, and currently covers the Northwestern Wildcats and Chicago Cubs. He currently resides on Chicago's north side.
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