Spartans, Wolverines mark 100th football game

 

 

By Tim Martin

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Former Michigan State running back T.J. Duckett says his lifelong best friend, fellow Kalamazoo native John Bradford, “is the biggest Michigan fan in the history of the state.”

In 2001, Duckett irritated his buddy – and millions of other Wolverine fans – by catching the game-winning touchdown as time expired in one of the most controversial games in a rivalry that celebrates its 100th game Saturday.

Measured by a century or a second, time is a recurring theme in the Michigan-Michigan State football series.

In the ‘Clock Game’ of 2001, Michigan fans swear time stood still in Spartan Stadium long enough for Michigan State and Duckett to pull off a last-second 26-24 victory. Duckett says that to this day, Bradford claims Michigan State didn’t really win the game.

This year, clocks in football training facilities at Michigan State (5-4, 1-4 Big Ten) began counting down the days to kickoff against No. 15 Michigan (7-2, 5-0) before the season started.

It’s the latest edition of a rivalry that began in 1898. Except for a two-year break caused in part by World War II, it’s been an annual affair since 1910. That’s plenty of time to develop millions of split allegiances between friends and families that roar to the surface during Michigan-Michigan State week.

Michigan State usually has measured its football success against neighboring Michigan, college football’s all-time winningest program. The Wolverines have dominated the series with a 66-28-5 advantage.

All but a few games were played in Ann Arbor until Michigan State became a full-fledged member of the Big Ten in the 1950s. That’s when the teams began playing for the Paul Bunyan Trophy and the Spartans had equal standing for a home-and-home series.

The only prolonged streak of Spartan superiority over the Wolverines came in the 1950s and ’60s, when Michigan State held a 14-4-2 edge while winning at least one version of a national championship in six different seasons under Biggie Munn and Duffy Daugherty.

Before and since, it’s been pretty much all Michigan. The Wolverines have won five straight headed into Saturday’s contest and own a 29-8 record in the series since 1970. No wonder some Wolverines say the Spartans have an inferiority complex.

Associated Press Sports Writer Larry Lage contributed to this report

A look at the Michigan-Michigan State football rivalry

Michigan and Michigan State will meet each other for the 100th time on the football field Saturday in Spartan Stadium.

n Series began: 1898, including nearly every year since 1910. The teams didn’t play in 1943 because Michigan State didn’t field a team due to World War II. The programs didn’t meet in 1944, either, but the series resumed in 1945 and has been played every year since.

n Overall record: Michigan leads series, 66-28-5.

n In Ann Arbor: Michigan leads, 48-18-3.

n In East Lansing: Michigan leads, 18-10-2.

n Current streak: Michigan has won five straight, a streak that began in 2002.

n Trophy: Paul Bunyan Trophy, provided by then-Gov. G. Mennen Williams in 1953 to mark Michigan State’s acceptance into the Big Ten.