By JERAMY STOVER, Sports Editor
It’s been over a year since that demoralizing night. A night that was supposed to be about resurgence. A night where the tide would turn and wind would begin to blow in a different direction.
And for 59 minutes and 50 seconds of the football game it appeared that was going to happen. But then something happened – some people would even say a miracle – and the wind turned back to a familiar direction.
The Michigan Wolverines were just 10 seconds away from defeating rival Michigan State on Oct. 17 of last year when punter Blake O’Neil fumbled the snap on the final play and Jalen Watts-Jackson picked up the ball and ran it into the end zone for the winning score.
Time stood still. The worst thing that could possibly happen on that play did happen. And after the result nearly 100,000 Michigan fans stood silent in disbelief at Michigan Stadium.
Senior Dymonte Thomas admitted that the play stuck with him through the next week.
“I was on the field when that play happened and I just couldn’t believe what took place and then we had that bye week after and during our whole bye week that’s all I could think about and I couldn’t think about anything else, I just couldn’t wait to get revenge,” Thomas said.
While players have to have a short memory and move on to the next game, fans aren’t required to do so. That play has been cemented in maize and blue fans memories. It’s been replayed on ESPN and local sports talk shows numerous times since it happened.
Quarterback Wilton Speight didn’t say specifically how long the play stuck with him but did mention that he and fellow teammates were feeling the disbelief after the game throughout the night.
“Those last few seconds we all thought the game was wrapped up so it was shock, I remember that night I went home and was with some teammates and we didn’t really know what to say or what to do because we were all in shock,” Speight said.
The way things have been going this season, the Wolverines will get more than revenge. Michigan is 7-0 and is ranked first in many key defensive categories. They moved to No. 2 in the Associated Press poll this weekend with Ohio State losing. Michigan State is going in the opposite direction. The Spartans are 2-5 and have lost their last five games. Michigan State has had problems with their quarterback and doesn’t have the ferocious defense they’ve become known to have.
But in a rivalry game records don’t normally matter. In 2007, the then No. 14 ranked Wolverines traveled to East Lansing to take on the unranked Spartans. Michigan rallied back from a 10 points deficit to win the game.
After the game Michigan running back Mike Hart made the infamous comments about Michigan State being Michigan’s “little brother.” When asked about Hart’s comments Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio replied with the statement “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.” Since making those comments Dantonio and the Spartans are 7-1 against Michigan.
Senior defensive end Taco Charlton said that his team has plenty of motivation for next Saturday with the way the rivalry has gone in the recent past.
“Just the fact that we haven’t beat State up in East Lansing for a while so that’s a motivator itself and I haven’t been able to beat State yet since I’ve been here so that’s another motivating thing not just that last play but just period going against your rival team you’re going to be extra motivated they’re going to be motivated so it’s going to be a hard fought game,” Charlton said.
While ownership of the rivalry might not change hands this season, it’s wise to put your money on the Wolverines winning this game. Heading into the week Michigan is a 21 point favorite according to BETONLINE.ag and has a 96 percent chance to win according to ESPN’s football power index.
But even with the standings as they are and the betting odds in Michigan’s favor, senior cornerback Jourdan Lewis knows his team will get the very best from the Spartans.
“I know they’re going to bring everything to have and be competitive I expect it out of them I’ve been seeing it all my years up here everytime I see them they’ve been competitive I can’t say what’s going on this season because all I know is a competitive Michigan State team.”