Michigan vs Michigan State Football — Looking Back – 1964

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

The fourth installment of this year’s series taking a look back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State takes us back to 1964. The Vietnam War hadn’t started in earnest yet, and only months before, The Beatles had appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. It was still early in the 1960s, but change was definitely in the air.

But that change wasn’t present at Spartan Stadium when the Michigan Wolverines faced their in-state rivals from Michigan State in 1964. The ’64 Michigan team remains one of the most underrated teams in the school’s illustrious football history. Michigan won the Big Ten championship and the Rose Bowl, where the Wolverines trounced an overmatched Oregon State team. Only a failed two-point conversion against Purdue prevented the Wolverines from earning a perfect season, and possibly winning the national championship.

In fact, one unique aspect of the 1964 season was that Michigan enjoyed a perfect record on the road, while losing to Purdue at home. But even in grand seasons, victory isn’t easy to come by on the road, particularly against Michigan State. When Larry Lukasik kicked a 26-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, the Spartans extended their lead to 10-3, and it was getting late early for the Wolverines. With the game on the line, Michigan marched 73 yards, capped off by a 5-yard scoring pass from Bob Timberlake to fullback Dick Sygar to cut the deficit to one point. Michigan’s subsequent attempt to take the lead was foiled when Mel Anthony was stopped short of the goal line, leaving the score 10-9, Michigan State.

But the Michigan defense came up with a big stop, forcing a Michigan State punt that UM returned to the Spartans’ 41-yard line. On the fourth play of the drive, Sygar took a pitch and threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to John Henderson for the lead. Timberlake then connected with Steve Smith for the two-point conversion. Michigan then stopped MSU on four plays, and held on for a 17-10 victory.

Unfortunately, there isn’t any video of this game readily available, so we’ll have to settle for the attached box score, with thanks to the Bentley Library.

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