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.

Michigan vs Michigan State Football — Looking Back – 2012

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

The first chapter in this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State takes us back to 2012. The previous season had been wonderful for Michigan, as the maize & blue had firmly reestablished their birthright of national football relevance. But there had been one snag. Brady Hoke’s first team found a way to lose to Michigan State.

As 2012 rolled around, Hoke was reminded of that fact, almost hourly. The flash and dash of the Rich Rodriguez-inspired zone read spread option offense hadn’t worked against Michigan State; neither had UM quarterback Denard Robinson been able to summon up his customary magic. None of the new age stuff worked against the Spartans, but that was just what Hoke was built for. He realized immediately that the Michigan-Michigan State game had always been about smashmouth football, and on Oct. 20, 2012, Hoke reintroduced the Wolverines to a Schembechler tradition: Michigan played old-fashioned, rock ‘em, sock ‘em football, punctuated by an aggressive, bone-crunching defense.

Sure enough, the game proceeded in classic Big Ten fashion, as a low-scoring, field position-oriented struggle, with Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan and MSU defensive end Will Gholston waging a battle for the ages. The teams traded the lead a few teams in the fourth quarter, and on the final drive, Robinson scrambled and connected with receiver Drew Dileo for a critical 20-yard gain that set up Brendan Gibbons for a 38-yard field goal that brought the Paul Bunyan trophy back to the Michigan locker room.

Thanks to youtube poster parkinggod and the Big Ten Network for the attached highlight film. As always, we own nothing and this film and blog post are used strictly for the enjoyment of our readers.

Michigan vs Michigan State Football — Looking Back – 2019

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

The fifth installment of the series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State takes us back just one year, to 2019. It was a Michigan home game on a chilly day, and the Wolverines were heavy favorites. But strange things have happened throughout the history of this rivalry, so nobody in maize and blue was making any assumptions.

Sure enough, Brian Lewerke drove the Spartans 60 yards and capped the drive with a 1-yard TD pass to Max Rosenthal to give Michigan State a 7-0 lead. It was the last time that a team coached by Mark Dantonio would ever have a lead against Michigan.

Wolverine fans were cautious, but still confident, and their confidence was justified in the second quarter, when Michigan took control of the game. Hassan Haskins scored from one yard out, and the game was tied. Then Shea Patterson connected with Nick Eubanks for a 5-yard TD pass and Quinn Nordin kicked a 28-yard field goal to give Michigan a 10-point lead at halftime.

In the third quarter, Patterson connected with Donovan Peoples-Jones, who sprinted down the sideline and dove over the pylon into the end zone, and the game was all but over. Matt Coghlin kicked a field goal for Michigan State that served strictly as window dressing for the final score, as Michigan routed Michigan State, 44-10.

As the game ended, Michigan players paraded the Paul Bunyan Trophy around Michigan Stadium, placing a Michigan helmet on it, a far cry from the days when the Paul Bunyan Trophy was regarded merely as a “locker room trophy.” The 2019 game was the last time Dantonio coached in the series. His lasting legacy, from the Michigan perspective, might be a greater appreciation for the game, and the trophy.

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

Michigan vs Michigan State Football — Looking Back – 2015

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

The fourth installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State takes us back to 2015.

Michigan struggled in the first few games of the Harbaugh era, but by midseason, the Wolverines were clicking in every facet of the game, and the matchup vs. Michigan State was supposed to be the first signature victory of the Harbaugh era.

With just 10 seconds left, Michigan was clinging to a two-point lead, knowing that a good punt should secure a victory. The biggest concern was getting the punt off successfully, which most thought would be easy enough. Still, there was an uneasy feeling about the moment. Something was off, though it was difficult to quantify exactly what it was.

Moments later, we all knew what the problem was. Punter Blake O’Neill had trouble with the snap, and somehow the ball wound up in the hands of the Spartans’ Jaylen Watts-Jackson, who sprinted to the end zone to give Michigan State its first lead of the game, with no time remaining. Just like that, Michigan State stunned Michigan, 27-23.

It all happened so quickly that it didn’t seem real. The visual of a stunned Michigan student on national TV is etched in the memories of Michigan fans around the globe. Just like that, a game that should have been a hard-fought victory became yet another in a string of losses to Michigan State.

The truth is that the loss can’t be merely pinned on just one player’s shoulders. Michigan struggled throughout the game, and the fact that the game was still in question near the end was reason enough for concern. As always, I own nothing. This blog post is strictly for the enjoyment of readers.

Michigan vs Michigan State Football — Looking Back – 1985

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.