Michigan vs Michigan State Football — Looking Back – 1985

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Looking Back is a Special Feature by Jeff Cummins Highlighting Key Rivalry Games

For the third installment of the series covering the football rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State, we go back to 1985. The national economy was roaring, but but the atmosphere was very different at Michigan before the 1985 season. The Wolverines had finished the previous season with an uncharacteristic record of six wins and six losses, and there was no hype around the ’85 Wolverines. Which might just have been for the best.

Michigan’s defense played as well in 1985 as it has at almost any point since 1950. Having lost to Michigan State the year before, the Wolverines entered the intrastate matchup a little more hungry than usual, and it showed when Michigan State had the ball. Defensive coordinator Gary Moeller did a masterful job coaching the defense, and his son Andy made the first big play of the game, recovering a Michigan State fumble at the Spartans’ 16-yard line. Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh didn’t waste any time, finding Eric Kattus for a touchdown to give Michigan an early lead. Next, the special teams got into the act, as Dieter Heren blocked a punt and Ed Hood recovered the ball in the end zone to give Michigan a 14-0 lead.

The Wolverines added a field goal in the second quarter and a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but those scores really weren’t necessary. The Michigan defense was playing lights-out football, and the game against Michigan State was one of their signature performances of the season. Michigan ended the game with a 31-0 win over Michigan State, holding Spartans running back Lorenzo White to just 47 yards on 18 carries. State fared no better in the air, gaining just 83 passing yards. There was virtually no drama to the game against Michigan State in 1985, and that’s exactly how Michigan wanted it.

The following week, Michigan suffered a loss at Iowa, where the Wolverines’ lack of focus and intensity probably hindered their performance. That often happens following intense rivalry games, and Michigan takes part in some of the most intense rivalries in all of sports. The Wolverines finished the ’85 campaign with a record of 10 wins, 1 loss and 1 tie. In truth, the narrow loss to Iowa quite possibly prevented Michigan from winning the national championship.

Thanks to YouTube poster WolverineHistorian and CBS Sports for the highlights of this game. As always, I own nothing and this blog post is written strictly for the enjoyment of readers.

About Jeff Cummins

Jeff Cummins has written about football since 1998, including nine years with The Record of Hackensack, N.J. He frequently contributes feature stories to Touchdown Illustrated, an insert in the national college football game program, published by University Sports Publications, and he has also written the official pregame stories for the game programs of the Rose Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Gator Bowl, and the BCS National Championship game. He has written the preview story for the official program for the NHL Winter Classic at MIchigan Stadium, and numerous college basketball feature stories for College Hoops Illustrated, another game program insert published by University Sports Publications. In addition, he has written stories about theater, music, physical therapy, and newsletter marketing. He’s an avid Michigan football fan and long-time New York Jets season ticket holder, and he can be reached at jeffcummins@optonline.net.