- Associated Press - Thursday, October 7, 2010

ANN ARBOR, MICH. (AP) - Desmond Howard sighed, then answered the question.

How often is Howard asked about the end of the 1990 Michigan State-Michigan game in which he was tripped or defended and then caught or dropped _ depending on your perspective _ a 2-point conversion attempt, allowing the Spartans to stun the top-ranked Wolverines 28-27?

“It doesn’t come up until Michigan plays Michigan State,” Howard said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press. “I don’t think people care about that game outside the state of Michigan.”

Within the borders of the mitten-shaped state, though, a ton of alums and thousands of fans of both schools still talk about that stirring finish and many of the other memorable meetings on the football field over the past two decades.

The 17th-ranked Spartans (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) will travel to play the 18th-ranked Wolverines (5-0, 1-0) Saturday in the Big House, matching up as undefeated for the first time since 1999 and as ranked teams for the first time in seven years.

The bitter rivals have had combined for some unforgettable moments the past two decades, from Howard getting tangled up in the end zone to the Wolverines losing a second straight game to the Spartans last year for the first time since the 1960s.

In between, Michigan’s Charles Woodson made a jaw-dropping, leaping one-handed interception on a pass intended for the front row in 1997 and two years later Plaxico Burress was so dominant even Tom Brady couldn’t lead the Wolverines to a comeback victory.

T.J. Duckett’s touchdown catch in 2001 with a disputed second left, though, gave Michigan State a win that is perhaps the most famous, or infamous, snapshot that most people in Michigan can still see with their mind’s eye.

Michigan State, with one time out left, started the winning drive at the Michigan 43 with 2:09 left.

On a fourth-and-16 from the 50, an incomplete pass turned into a first down for Michigan State when cornerback Jeremy LeSueur was called for a personal foul for flagrantly making contact with receiver Charles Rogers’ face mask.

Later, Smoker spiked the ball with 17 seconds left, scrambled for 2 yards to the 1 and spiked the ball again with a second left. Michigan’s coaches, players and fans still believe that tick was only on the clock because a man known as “Spartan Bob” was helping out the home team.

“I’ve talked to Spartan Bob about it and he said if college football clocks had tenths of a second back then, there would’ve been three-tenths left,” Duckett said. “Technically, there was time left.”

Former Michigan linebacker Larry Foote still doesn’t buy it.

“Those refs cheated us out of that game,” Foote said. “Even before that clock guy cheated us, the ref did by tossing the ball to the center before that last spike instead of spotting the ball himself. I was so mad after that game, I threw my helmet about 30 yards down the field trying to hit those jokers when they were running off the field.”

Michigan’s last win was memorable because after Mike Hart helped the Wolverines to a comeback win in East Lansing in 2007 he stung them with a jab during the postgame news conference.

“Sometimes, you get your little brother excited when you’re playing basketball _ let them get the lead,” Hart said after Michigan overcame a 10-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter to win on Chad Henne’s TD pass to Mario Manningham. “And then you come back.”

Since then, more than 1,000 days have passed without a Michigan win against Michigan State in football or men’s basketball.

Michigan State made quite a comeback in the 1995 game, going on an 11-play, 88-yard drive capped by Tony Banks’ 25-yard pass to Nigea Carter with 1:24 left for a 28-25 win under then-coach Nick Saban.

“Even Nick got excited that night,” Carter said. “When I got to the sideline, he gave me a big bear hug. I’ll never forget it because that was the first and only time Nick Saban ever hugged me.”

The Spartans needed a consoling hug when Braylon Edwards was done with them in 2005, making a third TD catch in triple overtime to lift Michigan to a 45-37 win after trailing by 17 in the fourth quarter.

“That one hurt and not just because I still have a scar from the surgery I needed after separating my shoulder in that game,” ex-Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton said. “But the game is what’s great about college football, playing with and against guys that you’ve known your whole life.”

Many Michigan men might be bitter for the rest of their life about how Eddie Brown made Howard stumble in the end zone before the receiver caught Elvis Grbac’s pass and couldn’t hold onto the football after hitting the turf.

But Michigan State’s coach at the time, George Perles, is not ready to make any apologies for the victory.

“They went for 2 and the win and it didn’t work out,” Perles said. “Desmond Howard got hit right in the chest with the pass and he dropped it.”

Famed broadcaster Keith Jackson closed the ABC broadcast that day, saying it was “one of the great college football games of my lifetime,” and everyone rooting for the green and white or against the maize and blue probably agreed.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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