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Top Five MSU vs U-M Games

  • Author:
    David J. Young
  • Published:
    Fall 2016

1913:  Aggies Shock UM (One Week Before Shocking Wisconsin)

On October 18, 1913, the Aggies secured their first victory over U-M, 12–7. Michigan Agricultural’s fullback, George E. Julian, scored two touchdowns, and Blake Miller returned a U-M fumble 45 yards for a touchdown. After the game, The Michigan Alumnus made note of the Aggies’ potential as an athletic threat: “This victory with the football tie in 1908, and the Farmers’ clean sweep in baseball in 1912, point to the fact that M.A.C. will bear watching by U-M.”


1978:  Kirk Gibson Leads Air Attack

U-M was ranked #5 in the country when the unranked Spartans visited Ann Arbor. U-M had won the previous eight series under Coach Bo Schembechler before Michigan State, led by QB Eddie Smith and wide receiver and future MLB star Kirk Gibson, dominated the Wolverines with a 24–15 upset. Michigan State would end up sharing the Big Ten title that season with the Wolverines.


1990:  “No. One vs. No One”

U-M came into the game ranked #1 in the country. With six seconds left, Elvis Grbac threw a TD pass to Derrick Alexander to make it 28–27 Michigan State. U-M coach Gary Moeller elected to go for two and the win. Desmond Howard lined up for a pass and was defended by Spartan Eddie Brown. While going out for the pass Desmond became entangled with Brown, appeared to have caught the ball for a moment, before dropping it as he fell to the turf. The Wolverines then attempted an onside kick, which they recovered. Grbac then scrambled and threw a Hail Mary that was tipped and intercepted to end the game.


2001:  Clockgate

The 2001 game, also known as Clockgate, was hosted by Michigan State. U-M entered the game undefeated and ranked #6 in the nation. With fewer than three minutes left, the Spartans received the ball at midfield, down 24–20. With 17 seconds left, Michigan State QB Jeff Smoker attempted to scramble for a TD but was stopped at the one-yard line. The Spartans rushed to the line and spiked the ball with just 1 second on the clock. On the next play, Smoker threw a TD pass to T.J. Duckett to win the game 26-24.


2015:  Rangers’ Miracle Punt Return

This was the first meeting of coaches Mark Dantonio and Jim Harbaugh. With 10 seconds left in the game, the Wolverines, leading 23-21, were faced with a 4th and short and decided to punt. Michigan State pressured with all 11 defenders while U-M sent players downfield to cover the punt. The numeric mismatch on the line allowed easy penetration when the Wolverine center quick snapped a low ball bobbled by the punter. The ball was scooped up by the Spartans and MSU ran the ball 38 yards for a TD and the win.