Michigan State and Michigan set to add new chapter
Desmond Howard sighed, then answered the question.
How often is Howard asked about the end of the 1990 Michigan
State-Michigan game in which he was tripped or defended and then
caught or dropped – depending on your perspective – a 2-point
conversion attempt, allowing the Spartans to stun the top-ranked
”It doesn’t come up until Michigan plays Michigan State,”
Howard said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press. ”I
don’t think people care about that game outside the state of
Within the borders of the mitten-shaped state, though, a ton of
alums and thousands of fans of both schools still talk about that
stirring finish and many of the other memorable meetings on the
football field over the past two decades.
The 17th-ranked Spartans (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) will travel to play
the 18th-ranked Wolverines (5-0, 1-0) Saturday in the Big House,
matching up as undefeated for the first time since 1999 and as
ranked teams for the first time in seven years.
The bitter rivals have had combined for some unforgettable
moments the past two decades, from Howard getting tangled up in the
end zone to the Wolverines losing a second straight game to the
Spartans last year for the first time since the 1960s.
In between, Michigan’s Charles Woodson made a jaw-dropping,
leaping one-handed interception on a pass intended for the front
row in 1997 and two years later Plaxico Burress was so dominant
even Tom Brady couldn’t lead the Wolverines to a comeback
T.J. Duckett’s touchdown catch in 2001 with a disputed second
left, though, gave Michigan State a win that is perhaps the most
famous, or infamous, snapshot that most people in Michigan can
still see with their mind’s eye.
Michigan State, with one time out left, started the winning
drive at the Michigan 43 with 2:09 left.
On a fourth-and-16 from the 50, an incomplete pass turned into a
first down for Michigan State when cornerback Jeremy LeSueur was
called for a personal foul for flagrantly making contact with
receiver Charles Rogers’ face mask.
Later, Smoker spiked the ball with 17 seconds left, scrambled
for 2 yards to the 1 and spiked the ball again with a second left.
Michigan’s coaches, players and fans still believe that tick was
only on the clock because a man known as ”Spartan Bob” was
helping out the home team.
”I’ve talked to Spartan Bob about it and he said if college
football clocks had tenths of a second back then, there would’ve
been three-tenths left,” Duckett said. ”Technically, there was
Former Michigan linebacker Larry Foote still doesn’t buy it.
”Those refs cheated us out of that game,” Foote said. ”Even
before that clock guy cheated us, the ref did by tossing the ball
to the center before that last spike instead of spotting the ball
himself. I was so mad after that game, I threw my helmet about 30
yards down the field trying to hit those jokers when they were
running off the field.”
Michigan’s last win was memorable because after Mike Hart helped
the Wolverines to a comeback win in East Lansing in 2007 he stung
them with a jab during the postgame news conference.
”Sometimes, you get your little brother excited when you’re
playing basketball – let them get the lead,” Hart said after
Michigan overcame a 10-point deficit midway through the fourth
quarter to win on Chad Henne’s TD pass to Mario Manningham. ”And
then you come back.”
Since then, more than 1,000 days have passed without a Michigan
win against Michigan State in football or men’s basketball.
Michigan State made quite a comeback in the 1995 game, going on
an 11-play, 88-yard drive capped by Tony Banks’ 25-yard pass to
Nigea Carter with 1:24 left for a 28-25 win under then-coach Nick
”Even Nick got excited that night,” Carter said. ”When I got
to the sideline, he gave me a big bear hug. I’ll never forget it
because that was the first and only time Nick Saban ever hugged
The Spartans needed a consoling hug when Braylon Edwards was
done with them in 2005, making a third TD catch in triple overtime
to lift Michigan to a 45-37 win after trailing by 17 in the fourth
”That one hurt and not just because I still have a scar from
the surgery I needed after separating my shoulder in that game,”
ex-Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton said. ”But the game is
what’s great about college football, playing with and against guys
that you’ve known your whole life.”
Many Michigan men might be bitter for the rest of their life
about how Eddie Brown made Howard stumble in the end zone before
the receiver caught Elvis Grbac’s pass and couldn’t hold onto the
football after hitting the turf.
But Michigan State’s coach at the time, George Perles, is not
ready to make any apologies for the victory.
”They went for 2 and the win and it didn’t work out,” Perles
said. ”Desmond Howard got hit right in the chest with the pass and
he dropped it.”
Famed broadcaster Keith Jackson closed the ABC broadcast that
day, saying it was ”one of the great college football games of my
lifetime,” and everyone rooting for the green and white or against
the maize and blue probably agreed.