Michigan vs Michigan State Football — Looking Back – 1973

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

The second installment of this year’s series looking back at classic games in the rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State takes us back 40 years, to 1973.

The year started with a flurry of events. CBS sold the New York Yankees to a 12-person syndicate headed by George Stainbrenner and in late January, President Richard Nixon announced that a peace agreement had been reached to end the war in Vietnam. In September, Yankee Stadium closed at the conclusion of the baseball season to begin a two-year renovation project.

In college football, Michigan entered the ’73 campaign with a roster that could certainly be called “loaded.” Mult-threat quarterback Dennis Franklin ran the offense, and tight end Paul Seal, a fierce blocker, was a favorite passing target. Franklin and Seal were joined by running backs Ed Shuttlesworth, Gil Chapman and Chuck Heather on the All-Big Ten squad. Defensive end Dave Gallagher and defensive back Dave Brown, both consensus All-America selections, headlilned the defense. Strong-legged Vietnam veteran MIke Lantry handled the placekicking duties.

Michigan State limped into the game with a 1-3 record, but as every Wolverine knows, the Spartans are dangerous in the rivalry game, particularly when they’re at home. Michigan entered the game as the heavy favorite, but more than 78,000 fans jammed Spartan Stadium, including many hoping for an upset.

The Wolverines probably would not have lost to anyone on this day. Five years into the Bo Schembechler era, Michigan was playing some of the best football of any Bo team. Once the game started, “53” seemed to become Michigan’s magin number. Brown scored on a 53-yard punt return with Chapman adding a 53-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Lantry had a 35-yard field goal in between, and the Wolverines opened up a 17-0 lead by halftime.

With the game being played in a steady rain, Michigan State had one hope for the second half: If the rain forced Michigan to fumble the ball, State had a chance. The rain kept coming, but Michigan kept control of the ball. In the fourth quarter, Franklin connected with Seal for a short touchdown pass and Shuttlesworth run for a touchdown to make the final score, Michigan 31, Michigan State 0.

Michigan never lost a game in 1973, ending its season with a 10-10 tie against Ohio State, and a share of the Big Ten championship. The Wolverines were robbed af a trip to the Rose Bowl and a possible shot at the national championship when the Big Ten athletic directors awarded the Rose Bowl berth to Ohio State, but that’s a story for another day. The bottom line is that the 1973 Wolverines finished undefeated and posted one of the greatest seasons in Michigan football history.

I couldn’t find any video of this game, so we’ll have to settle for the attached copy of the box score from the Bentley Library. Thanks to Michigan State University and the University of Michigan for this copy of the box score. As always, I own nothing and i do not profit from this blog post in any way.

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