This being a hockey blog, and I being a Michigan State grad, the 2001 MSU\UofM game that would most logically appear here would be The Cold War. To that I say, "Suck it, I don't own that game."
You can find more Classic Liveblog posts by following the "Classic Liveblog" label at the bottom of this post. You can find actual hockey content at ..... Oh who am I kidding, you probably just started your own Wings blog 15 minutes ago.
To usher in the 2010 college football season, I bring to you a live account of one of the most exciting and divisive games in our great state's history.
As Michigan State football fans, we haven't had all that much to cheer about over the last two decades, especially when it comes to battles with our arch nemesis. The 90s were largely a train wreck (I still see Charles Woodson's 1997 interception burned into my memory, as he borrowed Carl Lewis' legs and Rick James' cocaine to jump 25 feet into the air. Still the greatest catch I've ever seen); the 2002 game was total manslaughter; Chris Perry's unfathomable 51 carries in 2003 sucked the life out of me completely (and probably Perry's pro career); 2004 didn't happen because that's what my dad tells me -- despite what YouTube may have you believing. Same goes for '05 and '07.
But this contest -- simply known as "The Clock Game" -- was the diamond in the turd-filled rough. Did the clock hit zero before the ball was spiked? Was this an obvious case of "home timekeeper advantage"? Maybe perhaps sorta kinda. Regardless, it gave Spartan fans the bragging rights to the greatest game in this rivalry's history (Because 2004 never happened, you see). It was doubly great because not only was the game one for the ages, but it made Michigan fans whine to an extent that they never have before or since. To this day you can go up to a UM fan with a ticking clock and they will go ape shit like Captain Hook.
- 15:00 -- Michigan State takes the field first, led by the embattled Jeff Smoker. Smoker was notoriously kicked off the team for the final five games of the following season due to "substance abuse". His #1 passing target, the great Charles Rogers, did three months of jail time this year over a DUI, had to give back millions of dollars to the Detroit Lions after flaming out in the pros, fathered multiple children before graduating high school, and smokes what I'm guessing to be about a half pound of weed every day. So yeah, our team in a nutshell.
- 14:00 -- The drive starts with three solid runs from MSU's mega-running back, the monstrous T.J. Duckett. At 6'2" / 250 lbs, Duckett was one of my all-time favorite Michigan State athletes. I feel like I can really relate to a guy who probably ate over 500 Jersey Giant sandwiches during his time in East Lansing. Ignoring the whole "I'm white/he's black" thing, we're pretty much twins.
- 12:50 -- Rogers catches a pass over the middle and is absolutely crushed, but he hangs onto the ball for a first down. It was the biggest hit Rogers had taken since putting away his bong right before the opening kickoff.
- 12:00 -- The game is being announced by the legendary Brent Musburger, who is both my least favorite and real favorite football announcer ever. He has a perfect voice for college football, but at times dares you to hate him with his over-the-top theatrics. 2001 was the tail-end of his prime, actually; nowadays he sounds far more sedated, like he's being tranquilized before each telecast. Back then he would routinely make a pedestrian 2nd and 7 sound like World War 3.
- 11:20 -- MSU's drive stalls just inside Michigan territory, and they line up to punt. But OH SNAP, it's a fake! For the first time in football's 100+ year history, a play is drawn up where the punter blindly throws the ball 50 yards down field to a completely covered receiver. Dumbest fake ever ... but MSU's blunder is erased when Rogers was hauled down and pass interference was called. Disaster averted, first down Spartans.
- 10:10 -- Two plays later, Smoker drops a perfect pass over Rogers' shoulder in the back of the endzone for a touchdown. 7-0 Michigan State. Beautiful play. In fact, I rewound it, watched it again, and had my one-thousandth career "HE COULD'VE BEEN A SUPERSTAR" Charles Rogers relapse.*
- *Notice how his name keeps popping up? Rogers was all over the first five minutes. It may have been Duckett's game in the end, but Charlie Rogers was the most talented player on that field. He was loaded with talent and potential, and I loved watching him play more than any MSU football player to date. As a tall and skinny football-loving kid growing up in a Spartan family, I wanted to be just like him. I wanted to be a wide receiver. I literally wanted to be a black dude from Saginaw who had five kids by the time I was 1 years old.
- 14:55 -- We cut ahead to the start of the 2nd quarter, because that's what Big Ten Network has decided to do. It's 7-3 Spartans after Michigan's Hayden Epstein hit a 57 yard field goal. Michigan has the ball after a missed field goal.
- 13:08 -- UM wideout Marquise Walker makes a nice catch and run for about 25 yards, which was accompanied by a long-standing Michigan State tradition: awful tackling. Every few years, State will produce a good linebacker who makes you forget about this tradition, but frequently during my lifetime, they've made tackling look like a cry for help. Highlights like this one make me want to pick up a phone and sponsor an MSU defensive back for 89 cents a day.
- 12:07 -- Walker makes a catch, a nice cut up field and finds the endzone to give Michigan the lead, 10-7. Of all the great wide receivers that I've seen come through Ann Arbor, Walker is the one I least hated. Unless he said some rancid shit about me, my family or Michigan State that I never heard about, I can almost say that I liked watching the guy play. I'm surprised he didn't have a notable pro career, especially after making catches like this disgusting one right here. Holy hell. Considering the Charles Woodson one-handed grab from earlier, I guess this would have to be the 2nd greatest catch I've ever seen. You know, that actually kind of sucks. I hate Marquise Walker.
- 10:57 -- Musburger is really starting to heat up. With former Spartan coach George Perles in the booth, he delivers the Aflac Trivia Question with such excitement that it becomes highly unlikely that he's still wearing pants. "ALRIGHT COACH, HERE'S THE QUESTION .... WHO HOLDS THE MICHIGAN STATE RECORD FOR THE HIGHEST YARDS PER RECEPTION? WHO DO YOU THINK IT IS, COACH? GO AHEAD AND GUESS. GO AHEAD AND GUESS." ..... (Perles, physically ill) "Andre Rison?" .... "ALRIGHT HE SAYS ANDRE RISON. WE'LL SEE THE ANSWER LATER, AND CHECK IF GEORGE REALLY KNOWS HIS SPARTANS. IT'S 1ST AND 10 AT THE MICHIGAN 30 AND BOY ARE MY NIPPLES A LOT HARDER THAN THEY SHOULD BE."
- 9:23 -- After Smoker is sacked for the 4th time already in this game (a developing theme) State converts 3rd and 17 with an 18 yard pass to Herb Haygood. T.J. Duckett runs wild through Michigan's #1 rated rushing defense to the tune of 30 more yards, as he closes in on 100 yards midway through the 2nd quarter (another developing theme). After Rogers draws another pass interference penalty in the endzone, Duckett capitalizes on the next play with a TD and MSU takes a 14-10 lead. On the pass interference call, color commentator Gary Danielson cryptically says in George Perles' direction, "Rogers could play at any level and you know he'll be in the pros as long as he keeps his nose clean." And I die inside a little bit more.
- 9:23 -- Perles tries to get the hell out of the booth: "Alright guys I gotta go--" before Musburger yells that they haven't heard the answer to the Aflac Trivia Question yet. Perles says, "Oh alright" like a guy who can't get his fucking girlfriend off the phone. "HE SAID ANDRE RISON AND OOOOHHHHHHHHHH KITTENS ALIVE IT'S KIRK GIBSON. 21.0 YARDS PER CATCH. THANKS FOR STOPPING BY, COACH, NOW SOMEBODY GET ME A CIGARETTE. TIMEOOOUUT."
- 6:34 -- Walker catches a 37 yard pass down the middle of the field to march the Wolverines into Spartan territory. He's looking rather unstoppable against this depleted MSU secondary, now with 4 catches for 97 yards. The pass was made by the painfully gumpy looking John Navarre, who -- fun fact here -- is the 2nd cousin of a dude I played little league baseball with.
- 5:04 -- Navarre goes up top to Marquise Walker again and connects on a 33 yard touchdown pass, putting Michigan up 17-14. Perfect example of the pro and con of Musburger: He nails the call ("OH BABY WE'VE GOT A DUEL ON OUR HANDS HERE,") and then ruins it by saying, "32 MORE YARDS FOR THE 'QUISE!". He's known for just saying the first name of a particular player, but he took it to a new level here. Literally said "The 'Quise" on national television.
- 2:07 -- Two more sacks for the Michigan defense, as they now have an astounding seven before halftime and put a halt to MSU's final drive before the half. The Spartan coaching staff inexplicably ignores the unstoppable running game on first and second down as head coach Bobby Williams looks on in total confusion. Williams, during his short time in East Lansing, was incapable of ever looking comfortable. Even for a second. He always had a look on his face that seemed to say, "I really hope nobody goes in that bathroom, because I just took a monster dump in there. I mean I really hope nobody goes in there." (Editor's note: "The Bathroom" is what we call the 2002 Michigan State football season.)
- 12:10 -- State goes to the ground game wisely and T.J. Duckett rips off a 28 yard run. Musburger breaks out his famous, "IT'S A FOOT RACE!" for the first time this game. Contractually, he's obligated to say the word "footrace" any time Player A is chasing Player B. Personally, I never understood why he didn't just become a track and field announcer so he could say it all day. "IT'S A 200 METER FOOT RACE!" Well, yeah, no shit.
- 10:39 -- MSU runs the option on 3rd and 2 and Duckett scores -- but the play is called back due to holding. Instead of a touchdown, Smoker is sacked on the next play, and State misses the field goal. Huge disappointment to end a great drive. As both an MSU football and Detroit Lions fan, I'd be a millionaire if I could invest money in such things as "Touchdowns that were called back on penalties". Brent can play Xbox with Chad Ocho Cinco and I can't put my money into something like this? Come on, Internet.
- 2:12 -- John Navarre drops back on play action and lobs a gift of an interception to Duran Bryan, and MSU is back in business. As Navarre comes off the field, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr gives him the, "I'm going to chain you in my basement, just like I do to most young boys I meet because I'm Lloyd Carr" glare. You think that's a joke? Yeah okay. Look at that man. If you're a 12 year old boy and you're thinking about following that mysterious trail of yo-yo's and Reese's Pieces, get the fuck away from Lloyd Carr's driveway.
- 1:44 -- Duckett gashes the U of M defense for two more 10 yard runs. On every run he's picking up at least 10 to 12 yards and punishing Wolverine defenders who dare step in his way. The drive ends with a field goal and the 3rd quarter ends deadlocked, 17-17.
- 14:56 -- On the ensuing drive, Marquise Walker drops what would have been a first down catch (Musburger is exclusively calling him "Marquise" now. He no longer has a last name.) Then on the next play, Duran Bryan makes his second interception of the game and sends Spartan Stadium into a frenzy. But nothing comes of it as MSU goes 3-and-out, a drive which included Michigan's 10th sack of Jeff Smoker. Seriously, 10 sacks. Even Sidney Crosby's chin thinks this is too many sacks for one night.
- 10:54 -- After a Michigan punt, Charles Rogers comes back on the next play with a full extension diving catch of 29 yards to move into U of M territory. Typing it obviously doesn't do the catch justice, but it had to make the final cut. Just a phenomenal catch, which was all the more difficult because Chuck was being held. Every time the ball would get close to him, a Michigan DB would be forced to commit interference and just hope it didn't get called. HE COULD'VE BEEN A SUPERSTAR, DAMMIT.
- 9:40 -- Duckett goes over 200 yards for the game on another long run down to the U of M 16 yard line. But because he's a 250 pound dude who always needed a 2 to 3 play rest after a big run, the drive stalled as soon as he went to the sidelines and MSU was forced to settle for 3. 20-17 Spartans.
- 6:44 -- On the next Michigan drive, Walker drops another sure first down pass, prompting Musburger to use the word "Walker" after Marquise for the first time in at least two hours. That's how it works. If you're in that special zone as a college football player, Musburger says just your first name -- or even a ludicrous nickname instead -- but if you fall off a little bit, that last name is going right back up there. He was simply "Marquise" for the first three quarters, but now he's just plain old Marquise Walker.
- 6:05 -- Huge moment in the game occurs on the next MSU drive when Smoker fumbles the snap and U of M recovers in Spartan territory. The very next play, Michigan runs an end-around for 22 yards. Three plays later, Navarre finds Jeremy Gonzales in the endzone and U of M goes up 24-20. Huge momentum shift ..... typical MSU football when playing Michigan.
- 2:09 -- Both teams exchange possessions, and now it's MSU ball at the Michigan 44. Final drive of the game.
- 1:25 -- After yet another sack and two incomplete passes, it's now 4th and 17. (You know what might have prevented this. RUNNING THE DAMN BALL. Yes, this game happened 9 years ago and I know the outcome and I'm still complaining about play calling. That's the Bobby Williams era.) Hope is about as low as can be right here. Smoker can't seem to take any shots down field without a Michigan lineman jumping all over him, and Duckett can't save us when it's 4th and long.
- 1:18 -- But Michigan's boneheaded defense can. Cornerback Jeremy LeSueur makes one of the dumbest decisions I have ever seen in a football game, physically assaulting Charles Rogers at the line of scrimmage. Grabs his facemask and anything else he can get ahold of, then throws him out of bounds. Inexplicable. Your pass rush has been playing A+ football the entire game and MSU needs a prayer to keep the game alive -- and you do this on 4th and 17? That's how good Rogers was. They'd rather rape him right at the line than let him run downfield. First down State at the Michigan 35, and the crowd is really buzzing.
- 1:12 -- Oh lord, I had forgotten about this part. Rogers split the double coverage down the sideline and Smoker went for the win, delivering a gem of a pass right on the money ..... and Chuck dropped it. Again, even knowing the outcome, that one made me cringe.
- 1:01 -- Herb Fuckin' Haygood! On 3rd and 10, he snags his 4th catch of the game on a 15 yard pass. The Spartans are still alive as the clock ticks under 50 seconds.
- 0:36 -- Michigan's defense, at it again: 12 men on the field gives State a half the distance to the goal penalty. Crazy scene as the referee tries to stop the U of M defenders from escaping to safety on the sidelines as he's trying to double check his counting. Yes, there were indeed 12 Wolverines on the field. The ball is at the 11 yard line. God almighty this shit is intense.
- 0:27 -- (Interesting wrinkle to this game: On the '12 men' penalty, Smoker was sacked (naturally) and State burned their last timeout. But the penalty stops the clock, so they didn't really need to use it. Yet they were charged one anyway. Could they have used that last timeout a few plays later? Yeah, obviously. I'll use this as a ridiculous excuse to absolve the timekeeper from any criticism here in a few seconds.
- 0:23 -- After a couple of incomplete passes, it's 4th and 4. T.J. Duckett saves the game for now with a little 7 yard slant as Spartan Stadium pees it's collective pants in a sigh of relief. We now have 1st and Goal at the 3 yard line.
- 0:17 -- Smoker spikes the ball on 1st down to stop the clock. The camera cuts to Bobby Williams, who looks like he'd rather be hunched over a sink in a prison washroom than have any part of this game. I think you can actually see a red stain on his shirt where his heart has begun to bleed. He's a little stressed right now.
- 0:17 -- 2nd and Goal: Smoker takes the snap out of the shotgun and scrambles to his right. There's nothing there and he's tackled at the one yard line. He struggles to get up and get his teammates to the line to spike the ball one last time. Four seconds left as the clock ticks away ..... then three ..... then two ...... one ............. zero-point-five ............ zero-point-one ....... (looks down at watch) ........................................
- 0:00.0000000000000001 -- ......... and Smoker spikes the ball with one second left on the clock!
- * Despite what Brent Musburger or anyone else was insisting at that moment, the ball was spiked in time. I've watched the video 10 million times. I've clapped my hands along with the ticking seconds of the replay to try and judge if that last second hung up there a little too long. It didn't. When you do watch it, you have to mute it because Musburger's counting is off. He's an ass.
- * Furthermore, Michigan's radio announce team lost all of my respect after this game, largely because of Jim Brandstatter. Their embarrassing transcript of the final drive and postgame is here. They lose their minds over the '12 men' penalty -- which was legit by the way -- claiming that there were 11 guys on the field. There were 12. It's counting, it's not overly difficult. They go on to claim that the game was won by the officials because the clock should have run out. The play was so close that it's certainly debatable, but that's just it -- it was too close at the time to have any definite opinion on it without seeing replays. For them to treat this game like somebody shot their dog in front of them was complete trash and defined what the bad side of "homerism" is to me.
- 0:00 -- 4th down for the 3rd time on this drive...
... MSU is in the shotgun with five wide receivers. They need one more miracle. Jeff Smoker rolls to his right, and throws up what looks like a hopeless prayer.
Final: 26 - 24 Michigan State