If Michigan gets 24 points, they’ll beat us. The only way the Spartans are winning this game is if they keep it a low-scoring game.
That was in 1995, and those were the words of my father before we watched the Michigan-Michigan State game down in our basement.
For much of the game, I was disgusted with the way Michigan was playing. Brian Griese – pre-national championship form – was hardly as good as injured starter Scott Driesbach and was showing it in the first half, as he and the Wolverines fell behind 14-3 at the half. I was more concerned with how Michigan could manage any offensive touchdown, let alone three to get the fabled 24 points.
The Wolverines, behind the running of Tshimanga Biakabutuka, clawed their way back into the game, and after a Griese-to-Mercury Hayes touchdown pass with just minutes left, Michigan was up 25-21.
Then I did something I regret to this day. I trusted a Spartan. I believed my dad’s claim that 24 points would be enough. The 13-year-old me even fell for my father’s throwing of the white flag in defeat after the Michigan touchdown.
“Well, you got your 24,” he said to me.
I should have known better. Michigan State thrives on doing the unexpected.
I expected them to lose when Michigan hit 25 points.
Tony Banks had me and the rest of the Wolverines right where he wanted us. He would need just 2:14 seconds to drive 88 yards of the field and connect with Nigea Carter for the winning touchdown. Michigan would muster nothing after that.
I would muster nothing after that for the next few hours – aside from the few tears I would always have at that age from a Michigan loss.
The Spartans had once again done the unexpected, and as always, I was caught off guard when I saw it.
But those who have graced the green and white have always caught me off guard: my father, my friends and those who compete in those colors.
For instance, take my friend Cara DeSanto. Her boyfriend came in from Colorado, went into East Lansing and proposed to her during a football game. What game you may ask? Not Notre Dame. Not even Iowa. But Rutgers.
That’s right, the punching bag of the Big East and a few Division II teams was the right scene for a life-altering question.
Now me, personally, if I were ever to propose to a girl at a Michigan game, it’s Ohio State, the Rose Bowl or not at all. Even in Minneapolis they have their proposal-timing corrected. A guy named Mark waited until the Michigan game a couple weeks ago before he proposed to his girl, Jamie. I guarantee he wasn’t going to do that during Louisiana-Monroe or Troy State.
But that’s what makes Michigan State so special. They take the norm and completely reverse it.
Oh, despite the lack of a good game against the Scarlet Knights, Cara said, “Yes” and I wish her and her fianc�e the best – even if they should have waited for nationally televised exposure before popping the question.
Then there is my friend Charlie Doriean. He’s easily the smartest person my age that I know.
He was, and still is, almost a lock for any Ivy-league school that he could want.
Instead, he went to East Lansing.
Not because it was a step down, but because he had won The Alumni Distinguished Scholarship, thanks in part to a test featuring knowledge on anything, including the architecture of Egyptian buildings from hundreds of years ago.
That’s not even the unexpected part, though. He’s a pro-wrestling fan. The same guy who will talk to me about topics that are over my head, will chat with the same fire about how Vince McMahon is using Stone Cold Steve Austin poorly in storylines. I guarantee the Alumni Distinguished Scholarship Test asked nothing about that.
Spartans just know how to throw you for loops better than anyone else in the business.
Take last season. Michigan State had so much talent and expectations of a Big Ten title. Then the Spartans fell apart in dramatic fashion. Head coach Bobby Williams was fired after the Michigan loss and two of the team’s captains were removed from the team – one permanently.
Enter John L. Smith. He was expected to have a rebuilding year. He was expected to be mediocre at best. He was expected to have a mess of a situation that would be impossible to clean up in one year.
Well, I don’t think I need to go into what has happened since then. The Spartans, with the same talent from last year (sans Charles Rogers), have begun to look like the Big Ten Champions they were supposed to be.
I’ll admit it, I’ve been surprised by the Spartans.
I should know better by now.
– Kyle O’Neill would like to tell all Michigan State fans that the Spartans can expect to win should they score 24 points against Michigan.He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.