Looking Back is a Special Feature by Jeff Cummins Highlighting Key Rivalry Games
The third installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State takes us back 2007.
Lloyd Carr’s final team began the season with a lot of expectations; too many, as it turned out. The Wolverines came in with one of the best rosters in the last 50 years of Michigan football. Quarterback Chad Henne, running back Mike Hart and offensive tackle Jake Long were all seniors with significant experience, and they led an explosive offense. Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington were dangerous receiving threats, and Carson Butler and Mike Massey were both reliable tight ends. The defense was led by outside linebacker Shawn Crable, with speedy cornerback Morgan Trent able to provide blanket coverage on receivers. Player for player, the Wolverines could match up with any team in the nation.
Unfortunately, the matchups didn’t end all that well in the first two games, as Michigan fell to Appalachian State and Oregon, starting the season with an inauspicious record of no wins and two losses. However, by the time Michigan was about to face Michigan State, the Wolverines had reeled off seven consecutive wins, and were playing with the kind of zest that led them to 11 consecutive victories in 2006. Michigan State had a new coach named Mark Dantonio, who went on to make quite an impact on the rivalry.
Things started well for Michigan. After Jamar Adams came up with a clutch interception, Hart added a couple of long runs and Henne connected with Butler to give Michigan a 14-3 lead that seemed to be commanding. Emphasis on the word “seemed.”
The second half was quite different. Jehuu Caulcrick got things started with a 1-yard plunge for a Michigan State touchdown, and suddenly, there was a footballl game in East Lansing. As the fourth quarter began, MSU quarterback Brian Hoyer tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to Kellen Davis, and the Spartans grabbed the lead. Seven minutes later, Caulcrick scored on another 1-yard run, and things looked pretty bleak for Michigan.
With precious little time left, the Wolverines woke up and started playing like a championship team. Following an injury to Henne, freshman Ryan Mallett came in to play quarterback for Michigan. Mallett was promptly sacked and stripped of the ball, but Hart alertly picked up the fumble and fought his way for 15 yards and a critical first down. Following several plays with Mallett at quarterback, Henne returned to throw a beautiful touchdown pass to Greg Matthews, and the Wolverines were back within stiking distance. Then, on 3rd & 11, Henne completed a daring pass to Manningham, who walked a veritable to tightrope to earn a first down for Michigan. A few plays later, Henne found Manningham again, as the receiver caught the ball while falling backward for an amazing touchdown. Michigan had retaken the lead, for good.
Michigan State got the ball back, and Crable promptly sacked Hoyer to stick the Spartans in a deep hole. Three incompletions later, the Wolverines took possession of the ball and the game, earning one of the most hard-fought victories in the history of the rivalry.
Following the game, Hart referred to Michigan State as “little brother,” an infamous quote that fired up the Spartans for more than decade to follow. But on this day, Hart performed in a clutch manner, and the Wolverines earned a win for the ages.
Thanks to ABC Sports, YouTube, and YouTube poster Pizza Pizzichetti for the accompanying broadcast of this game. As always, I own nothing, and this blog post is strictly for the enjoyment of readers.
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