Michigan–Michigan State football rivalry

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Michigan–Michigan State football rivalry
Michigan Wolverines Block M.png MSUSpartans Logo.svg
Michigan Wolverines Michigan State Spartans

Total meetings 107
Series record Michigan leads, 68–34–5
First meeting October 12, 1898
Michigan 36, Michigan State 0
Last meeting October 25, 2014
Michigan State 35, Michigan 11
Next meeting October 17, 2015
Largest win Michigan, 119–0 (1902)
Longest win streak Michigan, 14 (1916–29)
Current win streak Michigan State, 2 (2013–present)
Trophy Paul Bunyan Trophy

The Michigan–Michigan State football rivalry is an American college football rivalry between the University of Michigan Wolverines and Michigan State University Spartans. The winner of each year's game receives the Paul Bunyan Trophy. The teams first played in 1898 and have met almost every year since 1910; the competition became a conference rivalry with Michigan State's entrance into the Big Ten Conference in 1950.[1]

Series history[edit]

Michigan leads the series 68–34–5. The series record for the Paul Bunyan Trophy (as of 2014) is 35–25–2 for Michigan as the trophy wasn't added until Michigan State became a full member of the Big Ten in 1953, at which point Michigan led 33–9–3. A home-and-home series did not begin until the 1958 season. Through the 1957 season, the game was played in Ann Arbor 44 times and played in East Lansing only 6 times.[2] At the start of the trophy game series, Michigan State began a nearly two-decade period of dominance. From 1950 to 1969, MSU went 14–4–2 against the Wolverines. After the hiring of Bo Schembechler in 1969, Michigan dominated the series for the next four decades, going 30–8 from 1970 to 2007. But the pendulum swung back towards the Spartans following the hiring of Coach Mark Dantonio in 2007, with Michigan State winning six of the last seven contests. Michigan holds the longest winning streak at fourteen (1916–29) and Michigan State held a winning streak of four (four times, most recently in the 2008–11 seasons) in the series history.


The Paul Bunyan Trophy on display at Michigan State in 2009

The game's trophy is the Paul Bunyan - Governor of Michigan Trophy, or simply, the Paul Bunyan Trophy. It stands at four-feet-tall and is a wooden statue of the legendary giant lumberjack Paul Bunyan on a five-foot base. It reflects Michigan's history as a major lumber-producing state. The trophy was first presented in 1953 by governor G. Mennen Williams to commemorate Michigan State's joining the Big Ten Conference.[3]

When the trophy was created in 1953, Michigan athletic director and former head coach Fritz Crisler refused to take the trophy if Michigan had won the game. Michigan State won the first game for the Paul Bunyan Trophy in 1953, displaying it proudly in Jenison Fieldhouse.

The following year in 1954, the trophy was left on the field for half an hour after Michigan defeated the Spartans, 33-7. "We'll find a place for the trophy," Crisler told The Michigan Daily after game. The Paul Bunyan Trophy was stored in the Michigan Stadium locker room in one of the equipment closets.[4]

Despite winning in 1954 and 1955, Michigan did not engrave their scores onto the neglected trophy. When the Spartans won in 1956, they engraved the Wolverine victories onto the trophy.[4]

The 1958 game was a 12-12 tie. The favored Spartans were so embarrassed that they didn't win, they originally refused to keep the trophy while Michigan refused to take the trophy. Michigan State eventually relented and kept the trophy. [4]

Despite its rocky start, the Trophy has become an important icon for both Universities, as a symbol of football supremacy in the State of Michigan.

Notable games[edit]


1910 At the October 15, 1910 meeting at Ann Arbor, the Wolverines prevailed over their in-state rivals (then the Michigan Agricultural College Aggies) in a game that involved a timing dispute of about seven minutes. Leading 3-0, the Aggies' player Leon "Bubbles" Hill ran a punt return for a touchdown by but was called back for holding. Michigan then scored to take the 6-3 lead. The Aggies were driving when the Michigan timekeeper said the game was over; MAC's timekeeper claimed that about seven minutes remained. Officials decided to side with Michigan's clock as there was no official game clock then, and the game ended in Michigan's favor.


1970 The #12 ranked Wolverines avenged their 1969 loss to the Spartans, winning 34-20 in Ann Arbor. Michigan would establish their dominance in the series with this win, creating an eight-game winning streak against the Spartans, outscoring them 202-70 including consecutive shutouts in the 1972 and 1973 games.

1978 Michigan was ranked #5 in the country when the unranked Spartans visited Ann Arbor. Michigan had won the previous eight series meetings under Bo Schembechler when MSU, led by QB Eddie Smith and wide receiver (and future MLB star) Kirk Gibson led the Spartans to a 24–15 upset. Michigan State would end up sharing the Big Ten title that season with the Wolverines.


1990 "Number One vs. No One" was the tag line used by the Michigan faithful leading up to the 1990 meeting in Ann Arbor between the two schools. Michigan 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. Michigan coach Gary Moeller elected to go for two and the win. Desmond Howard lined 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 play was controversial since Howard got entangled with Brown on the play, but no penalty was called. 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. [5]


2001 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 under three minutes left, the Spartans received the ball at midfield down 24–20. A Michigan facemask penalty resulted in 15 yards and an automatic first down. Two plays later, the Wolverines received a penalty for 12 men on the field. Michigan State was incorrectly charged with their final timeout on that play; the Spartans had called timeout but should not have been charged with a timeout because of the U-M penalty. Instead, the final MSU timeout was exhausted. Seventeen seconds remained when Michigan State quarterback Jeff Smoker attempted to scramble for a touchdown but was stopped at the one yard line. The Spartans rushed to the line and spiked the ball with 1 second remaining on the clock. On the next play, Smoker threw a touchdown pass to T.J. Duckett to win the game 26–24.

U-M radio play-by-announcer Frank Beckmann called it "criminal." His reaction to the last-second MSU victory in 2001 included stating the full name of each game official and saying the Big Ten was out of the national title picture "because of the job that was done here by the men in the striped shirts today". Beckmann also referred to the last tick as "staying on the board for an eternity" and speculated that Dave Parry, then Big Ten coordinator of officials, would soon "no doubt give an apology phone call to (U-M coach) Lloyd Carr.

Instead, the Big Ten reviewed the video of the game and concluded that the Clock Operator acted appropriately. Dave Parry, the Big Ten Coordinator of officials, said "we could find nothing that suggested a mistake had been made". Stehlin observed afterwards that seven different media outlets timed the play and all concluded that time remained in the ball game.

Beckmann would publicly insist that U-M was cheated for years afterwards, prompting public speculation that the Clock Operator, Bob Stehlin, might file a lawsuit against Beckmann for libel and slander. Outside legal experts suggested that Stehlin would likely win such a lawsuit, but Stehlin retired to Massachusetts and chose not to sue Beckmann. Instead, he publicly stated he "forgave" Frank Beckmann, even as Beckmann continued to slander him for years after the game's conclusion. [6]

2004 The 2004 game ended with Michigan defeating Michigan State 45–37 in the first triple overtime game at Michigan Stadium.[7] MSU quarterback Drew Stanton was knocked out of the game late in the first half after accounting for 80 yards rushing and 95 yards passing, and was replaced by backup Damon Dowdell. Michigan was down 27–10 with just 8:43 left in the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines managed to tie the game at 27 by the end of the fourth quarter. The Spartans had a chance to win the game in regulation, but kicker Dave Rayner's 50-yard attempt into a stiff wind was short. Michigan proceeded to win in three overtimes. Braylon Edwards led the Wolverines in receiving with 11 receptions for 189 yards and three touchdowns, while Mike Hart carried the ball 33 times for 224 yards.[8] MSU tailback DeAndra Cobb had 205 yards on 22 carries.[9]

2005 In 2005, the game once again went into overtime. MSU was ranked in the top 25 entering the game and the Wolverines were not - the first time that had occurred since 1968. Michigan won 34–31.[10] Michigan went ahead 14–0 after its first two possessions on Avant's leaping, 2-yard catch in the corner of the end zone and Mario Manningham's 43-yard reception. After two stalled drives and with momentum firmly on the Wolverines' side, Michigan State converted two third downs and made it 14–7 on Stanton's 4-yard run. The Spartans were driving deep when a halfback pass by Jerramy Scott was intercepted at Michigan's 4 by Willis Barringer, whose fumble was recovered by the Wolverines on a play that stood after a replay. Michigan State was called for roughing the kicker on the ensuing possession.[11] The Wolverines decided to take the points off the scoreboard, and the move paid off when Henne threw a 5-yard pass to Brian Thompson for a 21–7 lead. Jehuu Caulcrick's 1-yard run for the Spartans made it 21–14 midway through the second quarter and they tied the game on their next possession on Stanton's 61-yard pass to Kerry Reed. the game was tied at 31 heading into overtime. Spartan kicker John Goss missed a 23-yard FG attempt that would have given the Spartans the lead early in the fourth quarter.[11] Michigan kicker Garrett Rivas answered by missing a 27-yard FG with 48 seconds left. Michigan State had the first possession of overtime, but Michigan State kicker John Goss's 37-yard field goal attempt was wide right. Afterward, Michigan kicker Garrett Rivas made a 35-yard field goal to win the game. In his second game playing against the Spartans, Mike Hart rushed for over 200 yards, gaining 218 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries.

The Paul Bunyan Trophy on display at Michigan in 2007

2007 The 2007 game marked Michigan's sixth straight win over Michigan State. The Wolverines once again narrowly won with a comeback in the fourth quarter, winning 28–24.[12] Michigan quarterback Chad Henne led two touchdown drives in the final 7:35 of the fourth quarter of the game, completing touchdown passes to Greg Mathews and Mario Manningham, to lead the Wolverines back from a 24–14 deficit. Henne finished the game with 18 completions for 211 yards and four touchdowns, while Mario Manningham had eight receptions for 129 yards and two touchdowns.[13] After the game, Michigan running back Mike Hart called Michigan State Michigan's "little brother." "I was just laughing,” Hart said of Michigan State taking the lead. “I thought it was funny. They got excited. Sometimes you get your little brother excited when you’re playing basketball, and you let him get the lead, and then you come back and take it back." Mark Dantonio later responded to Hart's comment stating "I find a lot of the things they do amusing. They need to check themselves sometimes. But just remember, pride comes before the fall... This game is an important game. So they want to mock us all they want to mock us, I'm telling them: it's not over. So they can print that crap all they want all over their locker room. It's not over. It'll never be over here. It's just starting... I'm going to be a coach here for a long time. It's not over. It's just starting.[14] " (After that game, the Spartans began a winning streak that lasted for four straight wins over the Wolverines. This streak ensured Michigan's seniors would graduate without ever beating the Spartans, for the first time since 1960.)

2008 The game on October 25, 2008, in Ann Arbor, was the first UM–MSU game for new Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez who, like his four immediate predecessors, lost his first meeting with MSU. Early in the game, Michigan scored on a pass to running back Brandon Minor, who was only able to get one foot on a pylon. The pass was initially called incomplete, but the play was reviewed and incorrectly ruled a touchdown. During halftime, ABC-TV displayed the NCAA rule on the broadcast screen and concluded that the Replay Official was incorrect in awarding the touchdown to Michigan; ABC indicated officials on the field had been correct in originally ruling the play incomplete. The Commissioner of the Big Ten later acknowledged that the call was wrong.[15] The two teams traded touchdowns for much of the game until MSU dominated the fourth quarter, with MSU ending the game by taking multiple knees inside the U-M 20-yard line. The Spartans won the game, 35–21.[16]

2009 The next contest took place on October 3, 2009, in East Lansing. The undefeated, 25th-ranked, Wolverines were expected to defeat the 1–3 Spartans, but Michigan State took the lead in the first quarter and held it for much of the game, extending the lead to 20–6 with a touchdown 13 seconds into the fourth quarter. However, Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier tied it at 20 with a touchdown pass to Roy Roundtree with two seconds left. In overtime, Michigan State cornerback Chris L. Rucker intercepted a tipped pass. On MSU's possession, running back Larry Caper scored on a 24-yard touchdown run. It marked the first time Michigan State had won in back-to-back years since winning three straight from 1965 to 1967.[17] MSU was penalized for 94 yards vs. the Wolverines' 15 yards, but still dominated U-M in offense, 417 yards vs. 251 total yards, and MSU dominated time of possession, 39:46 vs. 20:14.[18]


2010 The next game took place in Ann Arbor on October 9, 2010. MSU dominated the game, out-gaining the Wolverines 536-377 and controlling the ball for 35:55 vs. 24:05 for U-M.[19] At one point in the second quarter Michigan led the Spartans 10–7, but the Spartans took the lead for good shortly after and led 17–10 at the half. In the third quarter, the Spartans went up 31–10 until the early fourth quarter when Michigan scored their final touchdown. The 34–17 win marked the third Spartan victory over U-M in a row, including two at Ann Arbor; this was the first time since 1965–1967 that the Spartans had won three straight games against Michigan. This game was the first since MSU's victory at home against Notre Dame earlier in the season that coach Mark Dantonio was able to coach the entire game due to a heart attack suffered soon after the ND game. Many MSU players and staff cited his return as a major factor in defeating U-M so decisively.[20]

2011 On a windy day in East Lansing, Denard Robinson led the Wolverines to a touchdown on the opening drive. Michigan State answered back with an Edwin Baker touchdown. After two quarters, they were tied at 7. Two Kirk Cousins passing touchdowns put the Spartans ahead for good, 21-7. The Wolverines made it 21–14 before MSU strong safety Isaiah Lewis returned a Denard Robinson interception for a touchdown to give a final score of 28–14 for Michigan State. Michigan State won for the fourth straight year. This was also Brady Hoke's first game in the rivalry as Michigan's head coach.

2012 On October 20, 2012, the Wolverines defeated the Spartans for the first time since 2007, despite not scoring a touchdown. Michigan won in Ann Arbor 12–10 to earn back the Paul Bunyan Trophy. At 10:20 in the second quarter, Brendan Gibbons kicked a FG to put Michigan up 3–0. With 5:03 left, MSU kicker Dan Conroy missed a 38-yard FG attempt. With 1:07 left in the first half, Matt Wile made a 48-yard FG to make the score 6–0 Michigan at halftime. MSU quickly scored a touchdown in their first possession of the second half to go up 7–6. Michigan kicked a third field goal at 13:37 in the fourth quarter to go up 9–7. It appeared that Michigan had MSU stopped towards the end of the fourth by forcing them into a fourth and 9 on their own 30, however the Spartans ran a fake punt and advanced the ball almost to midfield on their way to scoring three more points to go up 10–9. Michigan got the ball back and drove all the way into MSU territory only to be stopped and punt the ball away with 4 minutes left. The Michigan defense forced a three-and-out and they got the ball back at their own 39 with 2:11 left. Denard Robinson completed a 20-yard pass on fourth down to advance Michigan to the MSU 25 yard line and with 9 seconds left Michigan spiked the ball. Brendan Gibbons lined up to kick the game winning field goal and was iced by MSU head coach Mark Dantonio. Gibbons lined back up and split the uprights to win it for Michigan, 12–10. After the game, the students rushed the field in celebration. This was the 900th all-time win for the Wolverines, making them the first program to reach this level in college football history.

2013 On November 2, Michigan State dominated Michigan defensively, winning 29–6. Michigan QB Devin Gardner was sacked 7 times and Michigan accumulated the fewest rushing yards for a game in its entire history (-48 yards). The Spartans held the Wolverines to their lowest point total in the series since 1967, the last time Michigan State had won by more than 20 points. This was the second game in a row that Michigan failed to score a touchdown against Michigan State. This game marked MSU's fifth win of the previous six games in the series.

2014 October 25, 2014: the game was played in East Lansing for the second season in a row due to Big Ten expansion. This game was marked by “Stakegate”; U-M players hurled a metal stake into the turf of Spartan Stadium immediately before kickoff, and attempted to approach the MSU team bench while stomping and yelling. This unusual behavior seemed to inspire the Spartans, who received the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards in just 8 plays to score a touchdown in 3:08.

U-M managed a field goal with 3:36 remaining in the second quarter to make it 7-3, but they would never be closer. MSU answered with another TD before halftime, and piled on two more TDs in the third quarter. U-M finally scored its first TD against MSU in three years with just 3:40 remaining in the game. After U-M made the 2-point conversion, MSU marched downfield and scored a final TD with 0:28 remaining. This was notable because four of the previous six MSU-U-M games ended with the Spartans taking a knee inside the U-M red zone, instead of adding a final score. In his postgame Press Conference, MSU Coach Mark Dantonio referenced the stake incident in explaining MSU’s decision to add a final touchdown.

MSU was penalized for 88 yards in the contest vs. 27 yards in penalties for the Wolverines. Despite that gap, MSU dominated the game, with 22 first downs vs. 13 for U-M; 219 yards rushing vs. 61 for U-M; 227 yards passing vs. 125 for U-M; 446 total yards vs. 186 for U-M; and time of possession of 33:46 vs. 26:14 for U-M.

The game marked MSU's sixth victory in the past 7 games of the rivalry. [21]

Accomplishments by the two rivals[edit]

Team Michigan[22] Michigan State[23]
National titles[24] 11 6
Bowl appearances[25][26] 43 25
CFP playoff appearances 0 0
Postseason bowl record 20–23 11–14
Rose Bowl appearances 20 5
Rose Bowl record 8–12 4–1
Big Ten Division titles[27] 0 2
Big Ten titles 42 8
Consensus All-American Players[28][29] 78 31
Heisman Trophies[30] 3 0
All-time program record 915–328–36 669–439–44
All-time win percentage .729 .600

Game results[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "All-Time Series Scores vs. Opponents". MGoBlue.com. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  2. ^ "Michigan State vs Michigan". Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  3. ^ Doug Hills (2012). "Through the Years: The Paul Bunyan Trophy". Maize and Blue News. Retrieved July 31, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c Trophy has a history as big as its namesake, Retireved 6-15-2014.
  5. ^ "Michigan's Moeller Gets Apology for Missed Call". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 
  6. ^ "MSU football: 10 years later, 'Spartan Bob' at peace". Lansing State Journal. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 
  7. ^ "MGOBLUE.COM Edwards Sparks Comeback Victory Over Michigan State - University of Michigan Official Athletic Site". Mgoblue.com. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 
  8. ^ "MGOBLUE.COM 2004 FBL vs. Michigan State -- Boxscore - University of Michigan Official Athletic Site". Mgoblue.com. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 
  9. ^ "Spartans Lose Heartbreaker To No. 12 Michigan - Michigan State Official Athletic Site". Msuspartans.com. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 
  10. ^ "MGOBLUE.COM Michigan Wins with Hart, Upsets No. 11 Spartans in OT - University of Michigan Official Athletic Site". Mgoblue.com. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 
  11. ^ a b "Spartans Edged By Wolverines In OT - Michigan State Official Athletic Site". Msuspartans.com. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 
  12. ^ "MGOBLUE.COM U-M Uses Fourth-Quarter Comeback to Defeat Spartans - University of Michigan Official Athletic Site". Mgoblue.com. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 
  13. ^ "MGOBLUE.COM Boxscore: #15 Michigan 28, Michigan State 24 - University of Michigan Official Athletic Site". Mgoblue.com. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 
  14. ^ "Mark Dantonio MSU - "Pride Comes Before The Fall"". Retrieved May 27, 2010. 
  15. ^ Report: Delany says officials mistakenly awarded TD to Michigan October 27, 2008
  16. ^ "10/25/2008 - Michigan State 35 Michigan 21 - Highlights". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-08-02. 
  17. ^ "Michigan vs Michigan State - 2009 Football". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-08-02. 
  18. ^ "Michigan State Official Athletic Site". Msuspartans.com. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 
  19. ^ "Michigan State Official Athletic Site". Msuspartans.com. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 
  20. ^ "10/9/2010 - Michigan State 34 Michigan 17". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-08-02. 
  21. ^ http://www.msuspartans.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/game-notes-14.html
  22. ^ "Michigan Wolverines Index". Sports-References.com. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  23. ^ "Michigan State Spartans Index". Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  24. ^ "NCAA Football Championship History". NCAA.com. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  25. ^ "Michigan Bowl History". CollegeFootballPoll.com. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  26. ^ "Michigan State Bowl History". CollegeFootballPoll.com. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  27. ^ "Divisional Rankings". ESPN.go.com. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  28. ^ "Michigan Wolverines All-America Selections". Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  29. ^ "Michigan State All-America Selections". Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  30. ^ "Past Heisman Trophy Winners". NationalChamps.net. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Michigan–Michigan State football rivalry at Wikimedia Commons