Michigan vs Michigan State Football — Looking Back – 2004

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

The second installment of the series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State takes us to 2004. Michigan was fresh off a tough, defensive win over Iowa, which might just have taken some energy out of the Wolverines. They’d need every bit of energy they could find to top the Spartans in 2004.

In the fourth quarter, with just 8:43 left in regulation, Michigan State had taken a 27-10 lead, and reporters in the press box could be forgiven if they’d already started working on the lead paragraph to their game stories. It seemed that the script was written, but Braylon Edwards had other ideas.

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First, Michigan cut the lead to two touchdowns with a field goal by Garrett Rivas. Then, Brian Thompson recovered the insides kick after it bounced off a Michigan State player, and Michigan was in business. Two plays later, Edwards went up and grabbed a jump ball away from the cornerback in the end zone to bring Michigan to within one touchdown. Suddenly, a palpable shift had occurred. With 3:05 left in regulation, Mike Hart bounced outside a would-be tackle and gained 26 yards to the Spartan’s 22 yard line, and Michigan Stadium was shaking. On the ensuing play, Edwards out-jumped a defender again, and the score was tied, 27-27. However, Michigan State didn’t panic, and with time for one play in regulation, the Spartans had a shot at a 52-yard field goal, but Dave Rayner’s kick was short, and the game went to overtime.

The game went to a third overtime and Edwards gave Michigan the lead for good when he caught a slant pass and took it to the end zone. Finally, on fourth down and eight yards to go, Markus Curry knocked the ball away in the end zone, and Michigan came all the way back to claim a 45-37 win in triple overtime against Michigan State, in a game that State coach John L. Smith said the Spartans should have won.

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Thanks to YouTube poster RXwolverine and ESPN Classic for the game broadcast. As always, I own nothing, and this blog post is written strictly for the enjoyment of readers.

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Michigan vs Michigan State Football — Looking Back – 2002

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

The first installment of the series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State takes us back to 2002. The previous year, Michigan had suffered a rather dubious defeat when Michigan State quarterback Jeff Smoker appeared not to have spiked the ball in time, but still received an additional second on the clock and completed a two-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Duckett as the clock ran out.

The Wolverines weren’t about to let the same thing happen in 2002, and they took it to Michigan State from the kickoff, winning 49-3. Well, almost from the kickoff. Michigan State got a 39-yard field goal from Dave Rayner before the Wolverines colored the game maize and blue. Running back B.J. Askew gave the Wolverines a 7-3 lead when he scored from two yards out, and when quarterback John Navarre connected with Russell Bellamy, the Wolverines took a 21-3 lead into the locker room at halftime, and most fans started planning their postgame tailgate menus.

In the third quarter, Navarre added a 12-yard touchdown pass to Bennie Joppru and a 47-yard TD pass to Bellamy. This time, there was no matter of an additional second. The Wolverines just dominated the Spartans. The rivalry game would be the last for Michigan State coach Bobby Williams, who was relieved of his job duties at the end of the season. Michigan finished the season with a trip to Tampa, where the Wolverines topped Florida in the Outback Bow, 38-30.

Thanks for ESPN for the game broadcast of this contest. As always, I do not own anything and this blog is written strictly for the enjoyment of readers.

Michigan Football vs Michigan State — Looking Back – 1998

The fourth installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State takes us back to 1998. The offseason preceding the 1998 football season was arguably the most enjoyable of the modern era of Michigan football. The previous season, Michigan finished with a perfect record, a Big Ten championship, a Rose Bowl championship, and even a share of the national championship. Michigan Stadium had been expanded by 5,000 seats to reclaim its status as the nation’s largest on-campus stadium, and the Wolverines had landed the top overall player in the 1998 recruiting class, quarterback Drew Henson, and a very explosive running back, Justin Fargas. The offseason party lasted a long time in Ann Arbor. Unfortunately, a little too long.

The Wolverines started the season with losses to Notre Dame and Syracuse. Charles Woodson had left early for the NFL, and Marcus Ray had been suspended for dealing with an agent. By the time the Wolverines finally woke up from their offseason party, it was clear the Wolverines still had lampshades from the party on their heads, when they should have been wearing the winged helmet.

By the fourth game of the season, those helmets were on, and they buckled tightly. Michigan State roared into The Big House, and following a Bill Burke touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress, the Spartans led, 10-3. After a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Michigan State got the ball back, but Paul Edinger missed a field goal, giving the ball back to Michigan. Tom Brady then put the ball in the very capable hands of Anthony Thomas, who rumbled 69 yards to tie the score. The Wolverines led by three at the half, but Michigan State had the momentum, and the ball starting the second half. That’s when the Wolverines regained their identity. The defense shut out Sparty in the second half, Jay Feely kicked his third field goal of the day, and 49-yard pass from Brady to Marcus Knight set up a Brady sneak, and Michigan went on to beat Michigan State, 29-17, highlighting all the usual strengths of a Lloyd Carr team.

The Wolverines finished 10-3 in 1998, losing to Ohio State, but topping Arkansas in a bowl game. The shame is that if the Wolverines had started the season with the same focus they had the previous year, things might have turned out much better.

Thanks to YouTube, ABC Sports, and YouTube poster CMB 7686 for the video. As always, I own nothing, and I do not profit in any way from this blog post.

Michigan Football vs Michigan State — Looking Back – 1976

The third installment of this year’s series looking back at the Michigan-Michigan State football rivalry takes us back to 1976. The Nation was celebrating its Bicentennial, and Michigan was celebrating the development of a new quarterback, then sophomore Rick Leach. Today, Leach would be called a run-pass option QB, but the option was part of Michigan’s package back then, and the triple option was fairly prominent across the nation. Leach could it all, run, pass, read the defense, you name it. And when he handed the ball off, his “lack of ball” fakes gave the defense an extra element to think about — as if they didn’t already have enough problems!

Sadly, it’s virtually impossible to find a box score, or a game story, or anything on this game except the final score (Michigan 42, Michigan State 10) and the film below, which doesn’t have any audio. The most important thing to know is this: Michigan dominated Michigan State. That win was the Wolverines’ seventh of eight consecutive victories against the Spartans, and it’s clear that Bo quickly learned never to underestimate Michigan State, a lesson that paid dividends throughout Bo’s tenure in Ann Arbor.

In addition to Leach, there were many outstanding players on the 1976 Michigan team, including four players who were named All-Americans, Rob Lyle, Calvin O’Neal, Jim Smith, and Mark Donahue. But one of the most interesting stories came from left tackle Mike Kenn, who was never a household name. Kenn went on to play 17 years with the Atlanta Falcons in the National Football League, and gained acclaim as one of the few players who could hold his own against Lawrence Taylor. Long, rangy, and very light for an offensive tackle, Kenn relied on technique and smarts to overcome most pass rushers, skills he learned from Michigan offensive line coach Jerry Hanlon. Listening to Hanlon speak, it’s almost difficult to imagine that such a soft-spoken man could develop such dominant offensive linemen.

As always, I own nothing and I do profit from this blog post in any way. Many thanks to YouTube and YouTube poster Ed G. Berry for the video below.

Michigan Football vs Michigan State — Looking Back – 1968

The second installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State takes us to 1968. With the notable exception of 1964, the Wolverines hadn’t exactly prospered in the ‘60s. Michigan had two players who were named to several All-America squads in 1968. Running back Ron Johnson gained more than 2,500 yards that season, while defensive back Tom Curtis intercepted 10 passes. The Michigan roster was stocked with many talented players, but the more talented team doesn’t always win the Michigan-Michigan State contest.

In fact, Michigan opened the 1968 season with a loss to California, which made coach Bump Elliott’s seat even warmer than it had been. Going into the game against Michigan State, the Wolverines had a 1-2 record, and they had lost the previous three games against the Spartans. For Johnson, in particular, this game would be his last hope for victory against Michigan State. If the Wolverines didn’t win this one, Johnson, and the other seniors on the Michigan squad, would be haunted by the result for the rest of their lives.

Johnson didn’t take long to make his presence felt, scoring on a 38-yard run to give Michigan the early lead. But in the fourth quarter, Michigan State quarterback Charlie Wedemeyer found receiver Frank Foreman in the end zone, and after the two-point conversion, Michigan State led, 14-13. Facing yet another potential defeat by their rivals, the Wolverines leaned heavily on Johnson, and he delivered. Johnson carried the ball 19 times in the game, gaining 152 yards, and touchdowns by future All-America tight end Jim Mandich and Montclair, New Jersey native Garvie Craw led the Wolverines to a 28-14, giving the outgoing seniors their shining moment in the in-state rivalry.

After college, many members of the 1968 team went on to prominent careers. After prospering in a blue jersey in college, Johnson wore blue with the New York Football Giants, where he became the first player in franchise history to gain at least 1,000 yards in a season. Curtis, too, wore blue in the NFL, where he won Super Bowl V in the 1970 season with the Baltimore Colts. Mandich went on to win two Super Bowls with the Miami Dolphins, and served as the de facto spokesperson for the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins for many years after his retirement. Sadly, both Johnson and Mandich passed away in recent years.

Thanks to YouTube, the University of Michigan, and YouTube poster WolverineHistorian for the following video clip. As always, I do not profit in any way from this blog post and video, which are presented strictly for the enjoyment of blog readers.