Michigan–Michigan State football rivalry
|First meeting||October 12, 1898, Ann Arbor
Michigan 39, State Agricultural College 2 
|Latest meeting||October 7, 2017, Ann Arbor
Michigan State 14, Michigan 10
|Next meeting||2018, East Lansing|
|Trophy||Paul Bunyan Trophy, Michigan leads, 36–30–2|
|All-time series||Michigan leads, 69–36–5|
|Largest victory||Michigan, 119–0 (1902)|
|Longest win streak||Michigan, 14 (1916–29)|
|Current win streak||Michigan State, 1 (2017–present)|
The Michigan State–Michigan 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 (exceptions in 1943, 44); the competition became a conference rivalry with Michigan State's entrance into the Big Ten Conference in 1950.
The all-time series is 69–36–5 Michigan, whereas the Big Ten Conference series (since 1950) is 36-33-2 Michigan. The series record for the Paul Bunyan Trophy (as of 2017) is 36–30-2 Michigan, as the trophy wasn't added until Michigan State became a full member of the Big Ten in 1953, despite the University of Michigan’s repeated attempts to block Michigan State’s admission to the conference. A home-and-home series did not begin until the 1958 season. Through the 1957 season, the game was played in Ann Arbor 46 times and in East Lansing only 6 times. At the start of the trophy game series, Michigan State began a two-decade period of dominance. From 1950 to 1969, Michigan State went 14–4–2. Since the Spartans hired coach Mark Dantonio, Michigan State has won eight of the last ten games. Michigan State has held a four-game winning streak on four separate occasions (most recently in the 2008–11 seasons) in the series history. Michigan has held winning streaks of fourteen, ten, eight, six and five games throughout the series.
Paul Bunyan Trophy
The game's trophy is the "Paul Bunyan – Governor of Michigan Trophy", or simply, the Paul Bunyan Trophy. It is a four foot tall 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1898: The first game
The first game in the rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State (then known as Michigan Agricultural College) was played in Ann Arbor on October 12, 1898, with Michigan defeating the Aggies 39–0. The Detroit Free Press wrote that the game was "essentially a practice game," as Michigan played 25 different players during the game. Charles Widman scored two touchdowns and was "the strongest ground-gainer" for Michigan. In the second half, Keena also kicked a field goal from a place-kick, "the first time a Michigan eleven has ever scored in that fashion." After the 1898 shutout, Michigan sent its freshman team against Michigan Agricultural for the next three years. The two rivals have played each other more than 100 times since the inaugural meeting in 1898.
1902. Michigan's 1902 team finished 11–0, outscored opponents 644 to 12, and became known as the second of head coach Fielding H. Yost's "Point-a-Minute" teams. The Wolverines faced Michigan Agricultural on Wednesday, October 8, 1902, and defeated the Aggies 119–0. Michigan was held on downs only once in the game, and the Aggies made only three first downs. Right halfback Albert Herrnstein ran back a kickoff the length of the field and scored seven touchdowns in the game. Willie Heston and Everett Sweeley did not play in the game, and the Detroit Free Press noted: "The opinion is quite general that if Heston and Sweeley had been in the game the Buffalo record would have been beaten, but, as it was, Michigan was simply fagged out running down the field for touchdowns." The game was played in halves of 20 and 18 minutes. With 119 points in 38 minutes of play, Yost's Point-a-Minute squad averaged 3.1 points per minute against the Aggies. After the game, The Newark Advocate wrote: "Michigan has undoubtedly the fastest scoring team in the world, and the Ann Arbor boys play Yosts' 'hurry up' formations like clock work. It requires a fast team to take the ball, line up and score 119 points, even if they have no opponents in two 20 minute halves."
1908 After losing to the Wolverines in the first three games between the programs, the Aggies played the Wolverines to a scoreless tie on October 10, 1908. The game was played in front of 6,000 spectators at East Lansing's College Field, and the Aggies' fans "went wild with delight" when the game ended. In Ann Arbor, the result was met with disbelief among Michigan fans who had expected an easy win. The Detroit Free Press called it "the greatest game of football ever seen in this part of the state." The Michigan Alumnus opined that the Wolverines were outplayed and would have been defeated had it not been for Dave Allerdice repeatedly punting out of danger.
1910. On October 15, 1910, Michigan beat Michigan Agricultural 6–3 at Ferry Field. The 1910 Aggies compiled a record of 6–0 and outscored opponents 165 to 2 against teams other than the Wolverines (including a 17–0 victory over Notre Dame. Prior to the Michigan game, the M. A. C. student body adopted the slogan, "On to Michigan." After a scoreless first half, the Aggies blocked two punts in the third quarter. On the second occasion, the punt was blocked and rolled to Michigan's 12-yard line where the Aggies recovered the ball. Leon Hill kicked a field goal from the 21-yard line, and the Aggies' maintained a 3–0 lead into the fourth quarter. With less than five minutes left in the game, Shorty McMillan completed a pass to Stanley Borleske who ran 50 yards to the Aggies' 15-yard line. Due to a penalty, the Wolverines had five unsuccessful chances to score the touchdown after advancing to the three-yard line. Michigan then lined up for a field goal, but the play was a fake. Don Green took the snap from center and ran for the touchdown. After the game, the referee, Ralph Hoagland, said: "Yost has certainly taught his men some great things about the forward pass."
1913. On October 18, 1913, the Aggies secured their first victory over Michigan, 12–7. Michigan Agricultural's fullback, George E. Julian, scored two touchdowns, and Blake Miller returned a Michigan fumble 45 yards for a touchdown. One account of the game noted: "The one great feature of the game was the accuracy of the Aggies forward passing which netted a total of 76 yards for the Farmers." The New York Times described the game as "a desperate gruelling struggle." Miller suffered a blow to the head during the game and was hospitalized in serious condition. 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 Michigan." In the celebration following the game, two Aggies fans were arrested and jailed for "throwing bottles about the streets" in the early hours of Sunday morning.
1915. The Aggies won their second game against Michigan 24–0. Neno DaPrato scored two touchdowns and kicked a field goal for the Aggies. The victory was the second in three years for the Aggies under head coach John Macklin.
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 Michigan State, led by QB Eddie Smith and wide receiver (and future MLB star) Kirk Gibson led the Spartans to a 24–15 upset. Michigan State's all-time leading linebacker Dan Bass led defensive efforts. Michigan State would end up sharing the Big Ten title that season with the Wolverines.
1990 "No. 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. Both schools ended up tied for the Big Ten title, along with Illinois and Iowa; all four schools had identical 6-2 conference records.
1997 In an AP Top-15 match up between both teams which featured ESPN College Gameday in East Lansing, the #5 Michigan Wolverines defeated the #15 Spartans, 23-7. The Wolverine defense had six interceptions, five of which came from Spartan QB Todd Schultz. One of those interceptions included a one-handed interception by eventual 1997 Heisman trophy winner Charles Woodson where he managed to get one foot in bounds on the sideline. Marcus Ray had a pair of interceptions, along with one apiece by DiAllo Johnson and Andre Weathers. Michigan would go 12-0 and win the national championship that season, their first since 1948.
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 should not have been because of the U-M penalty. Instead, the final MSU timeout was exhausted. 17 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. Michigan coaches, players, and the ABC broadcasters argued that the clock should have expired on the play and that the timekeeper, "Spartan Bob" Stehlin, purposely stopped the clock before the ball was grounded. Michigan commentator Frank Beckmann speculated that Michigan State had benefited from its home field advantage, even calling the unfolding controversy "criminal" on the air. Beckmann's reaction to the last-second MSU victory 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. Michigan would finish the season 8-4, making Beckmann's complaints moot. Beckmann would publicly insist that U-M was cheated for years afterwards, prompting public speculation that Stehlin might file a lawsuit against Beckmann for slander. Instead, he publicly stated he forgave Beckmann. Nevertheless, the Big Ten changed its timekeeping policy for the 2002 season. Previously, the home team appointed an individual of their choosing to keep the official time in the pressbox. Now, time is kept on the field by a neutral official appointed by the Big Ten.
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. Michigan quarterback Chad Henne led two touchdown drives in the final 7:35 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 Manningham had eight receptions for 129 yards and two touchdowns. 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.".
2008 The game on October 25, 2008, in Ann Arbor, was the first Michigan–Michigan State game for new Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez. 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. The two teams traded touchdowns for much of the game before the Spartans finally pulled away in the 4th quarter, winning 35–21.
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 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.
2015 October 17, 2015: the game was played in Ann Arbor for the first time since 2012. The #12 Wolverines, led by first-year coach Jim Harbaugh, entered the game 5–1. The #7 Spartans came into the game 6–0. This was the first meeting of coaches Mark Dantonio and Harbaugh. Michigan scored first and never trailed all the way until the final play of the game. Late in the 4th quarter, with the Wolverines leading 23-21, Michigan State drove into field goal range, but a sack pushed them outside the 40. They failed to convert on 4th and long, giving Michigan the ball and seemingly the victory. However, with 10 seconds left in the game, Michigan was faced with a 4th and short and decided to punt. Michigan State pressured with all 11 defenders while Michigan sent players downfield to cover the punt. The numeric mismatch on the line allowed easy penetration while the Wolverine center quick-snapped a low ball bobbled by the punter. The ball was caught by Spartan Jalen Watts-Jackson, and he ran the ball in 38 yards for a touchdown. Michigan State did not lead at any point in the game until time expired, but they outgained Michigan in the contest 386 to 230 yards.
2017 October 7, 2017: For the first time, Michigan and Michigan State would meet for a night game in their 110th meeting. The game was held in Ann Arbor at the Big House at 7:30 PM on ABC, Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit on the call. Michigan came into the game as #7 in the AP Poll and 4-0 on the season. The Michigan State Spartans came into the game unranked at 3-1 on the season, with their only loss at that point to Notre Dame in East Lansing. Michigan was 3-0 in night games at Michigan Stadium at the time. In the first quarter, Michigan would take the lead on a 30-yard field goal by Quinn Nordin to make the score 3 to 0. Michigan State would then score on a 14-yard touchdown run by Brian Lewerke. The score was 7 to 3, Spartans with the lead. In the second quarter, Michigan State would score again on a 16-yard pass from Brian Lewerke to Madre London. The score was 14-3 at halftime, with the Spartans leading in Ann Arbor. Towards the middle of the third quarter, it began to rain in Ann Arbor. Strong winds and heavy rain affected the game in the third quarter, making it even more difficult for the offensively challenged teams to move the ball. Tornado warnings were issued throughout lower Michigan but no delays were issued for the game. In the middle of the third quarter, Khalid Hill ran in a 1-yard touchdown for Michigan, cutting the Spartans lead to 4. The score was 14 to 10. Throughout the game, Michigan State forced 5 turnovers (2 fumbles, 3 interceptions) to the Wolverines' zero forced turnovers. Michigan tried a Hail Mary in the closing seconds, but a deflection by MSU's Joe Bachie in the endzone would cement the Spartans' upset win at the Big House in Ann Arbor, 14-10. The win marked the 8th win in the last 10 games against Michigan. Michigan would drop to 17th in AP Poll the following week and the Spartans would enter the top 25, finishing the season at 16th in the CFP rankings.
Accomplishments by the two rivals
|Postseason bowl record||21–25||12–15|
|Rose Bowl appearances||20||5|
|Rose Bowl wins||8||4|
|Big Ten Championship Game appearances||0||3|
|Big Ten Championship Game wins||0||2|
|Big Ten titles||42||9|
|All-time program record||943–339–36||694–453–44|
|All-time win percentage||.729||.601|
|Michigan State victories||Michigan victories||Tie games|
Big Ten games
Since Michigan State joined the Big Ten Conference in 1950, Michigan leads the series 36–33–2 through the 2017 meeting. Michigan was a charter member of the Big Ten in 1896 before leaving the league after the 1906 football season and returning for the 1917 season. Michigan State joined the Big Ten in 1950 and, in their first game as conference rivals, defeated Michigan 14-7 in Ann Arbor.
- Michigan–Michigan State men's basketball rivalry
- Michigan–Michigan State men's ice hockey rivalry
- Michigan–Michigan State men's soccer rivalry
- Most-played rivalries in NCAA Division I FBS
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In the 'Clock Game' of 2001, Michigan fans swear time stood still in Spartan Stadium long enough for Michigan State and [T. J.] Duckett to pull off a last-second 26-24 victory. Duckett says that to this day, [his lifelong best friend and fellow Kalamazoo native John] Bradford claims Michigan State didn't really win the game...Frank Beckmann, a longtime radio announcer for Michigan football games, called the clock incident "criminal" on the air.
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Media related to Michigan–Michigan State football rivalry at Wikimedia Commons