Michigan vs Michigan State Football — Looking Back – 1981

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

The second installment in this year’s series looking back at the Michigan-Michigan State football rivalry takes us to 1981. Early in the third quarter, Morten Anderson had given Michigan State a four-point lead, and Michigan subsequently coughed up the football for the third time. As the sun started to dip toward the upper reaches of Spartan Stadium, things weren’t looking good for the Wolverines.

Then, with Michigan State driving, Jerry Burgei stepped up to save the day. Don’t bother trying a google search; you won’t find much. Burgei was a little-known defensive back during his time in Ann Arbor, but on Oct. 10, 1981, he made the most of his opportunity, intercepting a Brian Clark pass at the Michigan 17-yard line to thwart a Spartan drive. With that, Michigan finally got its ground game going consistently, as Butch Woolfolk started to grind up 10-15 yards a carry, and Lawrence Ricks eventually punched the ball over the goal line to give Michigan the lead for good. Aware that Anderson was a kicking weapon for MSU, Michigan elected to go for two points, with wide receiver Anthony Carter taking a handoff and tossing an easy scoring pass to quarterback Steve Smith, who was completely alone in the end zone.

In all, Burgei’s interception ignited a 22-point Michigan rally, as the Wolverines topped the Spartans, 38-20. The win was Michigan’s third consecutive victory in the rivalry, and the Wolverines eventually finished 9-3, punctuated by a 33-14 win over UCLA under the artificial sky of the Astrodome in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl.

Thanks to youtube poster WolverineHistorian for the footage of the game. As always, we own nothing, and this video and blog post are presented 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.