The Last Time We Played MSU on Willis Ward Day

Submitted by BursleyHall82 on October 17th, 2018 at 8:53 AM

Here's another good omen. This Saturday is Willis Ward Day - the 84th anniversary of the Michigan-Georgia Tech game (Oct. 20, 1934), in which Ward was benched by Fielding H. Yost because Georgia Tech refused to play against an African-American. If you don't know the story, see the documentary "Black and Blue." Here's a USA Today story about it, too. LINK

The last time a Michigan game fell on Oct. 20 was back in 2012 - ironically enough, also against MSU. You'll remember that we won that game, 12-10.

I'll take all the good omens we can get. And happy Willis Ward Day, everyone. After learning his story, he's my all-time favorite Wolverine.



October 17th, 2018 at 9:45 AM ^

So, not really a blunder, as the game was already over, for all intents and purposes. There was 1 second left. In order to be able to throw a hail mary, they would have had to recover the onside kick without us touching it first - that's incredibly difficult to do. As soon as one of our guys touches the kick, the clock starts and runs out.

Yes, he may have had a 0.0000001% chance of still winning the game if he kicks the XP, but the possibility is so minute that it's pretty hard to consider that a blunder.


October 17th, 2018 at 1:31 PM ^

Hmm, I've seen most onside kicks cause at least 1 second to run-off. 

A Va Tech instant recovery took 2 seconds. But Alabama's vs Clemson didn't cause any. I thought there was a minimum time elapse, even for change of posession. Dunno the specific rule?

I guess we should just default to UM would've gotten screwed.


October 17th, 2018 at 1:45 PM ^

With MSU, 0.0000001% turns to 100% thanks to the refs.  I could imagine some BS like, "There were 1.9 seconds left on the clock, not 1.0."

I don't know man.  I love his dick move blowing up in his face, but it's like why do it?  There's no NFL tiebreakers to play for.  Kick the XP, try the onside kick, and hope the refs do something stupid to let you get one shot at the end zone.


October 17th, 2018 at 9:47 AM ^

That's a huge IF.  When MSU attempted the 2 pt conversion, there was 1 second on the clock.  The conversion was untimed, however the clock would start when any player touched the ball on the kickoff. It's likely that the 1 second would have run off (Spartan Bob no longer runs the clock).  It seems that this was MSU trying to get one point closer so that they could be defeated with dignity.


October 17th, 2018 at 10:19 AM ^

Denard was still the starting QB for the MSU game in 2012.  Gardner was playing receiver in that game and only caught one pass for 8 yards. 

You could argue that this game was the high water mark for Hoke's tenure at Michigan.  At this point, we were the leading contender for the Legends Division title and seemed to be headed for Indianapolis.  But of course Denard got injured the following week at Nebraska and that was the season and everything slowly turned to shit from there.

Ali G Bomaye

October 17th, 2018 at 10:22 AM ^

That was with Borges as OC, who refused to do anything to either prepare for the double-A-gap blitz or to stress the safeties in quarters coverage, which are literally MSU's two signature defenses under Dantonio. We won because our defense played a hell of a game, Denard was a remarkable player, and Andrew Maxwell was a terrible QB.

I have a lot more faith in Harbaugh to avoid those kind of unforced errors.


October 17th, 2018 at 11:14 AM ^

Harbaugh seems focused this week and on edge.

I could argue this game is the most important game of the season.  The general expectation is that Michigan should beat MSU most years, yet Michigan has prevailed only once in the last four years.  Michigan's roster shows better talent than MSU, and MSU is a bit down this year.  Michigan should beat MSU this year, and an outcome different from that will be a real disappointment.  So I can understand why Harbaugh (and team) might be focused and on edge, because the game this Saturday really is an important step in the re-establishment of Michigan as a power in the Big Ten. 


October 17th, 2018 at 11:53 AM ^

"Michigan's roster shows better talent than MSU, and MSU is a bit down this year."

If you evaluate roster talent on the basis of recruiting rankings, it hasn't mattered in the Dantonio era.

Going all the way back to the 2006 class on 247, MSU has had a higher-ranked recruiting class than Michigan exactly once, in 2015 (#23 vs #37).


October 17th, 2018 at 3:17 PM ^

I wasn't thinking of recruiting rankings when I wrote what I wrote.

In my mind I did a scan of position by position, and Michigan matches up well ... particularly on the defensive side of the ball.  Certainly the defensive secondary and linebackers; a debate could be had over the defensive line, particularly with an injured Gary.

Offensively, it's a little less clear in my mind.  I think as a whole Michigan's receiving corp matches up better than MSU's.  Running backs -- maybe a wash?  QB -- I do not underestimate Lewerke.  Offensive line -- I'm not convinced (yet) about Michigan's offensive line; we'll see this Saturday against a stout run defense.  

What Michigan State brings to the table for this game is (a) it's a home game for them, (b) it's their biggest game of the season, and (c) MSU is very good at keeping games close and capitalizing in the final minutes.

yossarians tree

October 17th, 2018 at 3:21 PM ^

I think Harbaugh has learned his lesson that this game is MSU's Super Bowl every year and that he cannot treat it like every other game. Even when Michigan has better talent, as is the case this year, Michigan must still play this game to win, with an edge, and with the determination to outhit them, or it can bite you in the ass. Hell that's the way our guys are going to have to play every game from here on out. 


October 17th, 2018 at 9:40 AM ^

This team is considerably better.  They sucked in 2016.  Tyler O'Connel played most of the game against us at QB.  Malik McDowell had decided he was taking the year off and their secondary was laughable and very young, worse than their current unit by a longshot.  We were a 24.5 point favorite. 

This year they are more of "a good team who was playing poorly for a while due to injuries and uncharacteristically poor QB play."  They have the #1 rush defense in the country and the 4th ranked overall defense.  Felton Davis is one of the best receivers in the country.  Bachie is an All-American.  The only unit that was probably better in 2016 was the o-line and not by much.

This year is not a David v. Goliath matchup.  If you hear MSU fans hedging, it is only because they want to play the "you did not beat a good MSU team" card if they lose.  They have some injuries but so do we.  Given all of the variables that come into play(location, injuries, weather, relative strengths and weaknesses), this game is close to a toss up.


October 17th, 2018 at 9:59 AM ^

A lot of us were saying the same thing about Wisconsin leading up to last Saturday.  Everybody had that game as essentially a toss-up.  Truth is, Michigan might just be really good and we're just starting to realize it.  Penn State did us a big favor by sleeping on Sparty last weekend, they'll be no sneaking up on us this Saturday.


October 17th, 2018 at 10:01 AM ^

I did not have the Wisconsin game as a toss up.  It was a little more of a blowout than I thought, but not much.  Wisconsin had been bad all year, no receivers, and no defensive line, two things that are an absolute requirement if you are going to compete with Michigan.  That game went about how I expected it to go, just closer than I thought at halftime due to our trouble passing the ball consistently.


October 17th, 2018 at 11:45 AM ^

Wisconsin was out half of the defensive starters against Michigan especially the DEs. Yes, Michigan was supposed to win big because they were a double digits favorite to win this game.

MSU is expected to be closer. They still have a strong run defense though they have allowed a couple of big runs. If Michigan offense were to be successful, it has to go through the air.

Dantonio will pull out a couple of goofy plays that he saved for the Michigan game that might result in a touchdown like they did last year with the misdirection play.

Whether if MSU beat PSU or not, Michigan wouldn't (and shouldn't) be sleeping on MSU considering they lost to them 8 out of 10 times.

CRISPed in the DIAG

October 17th, 2018 at 11:04 AM ^

Bachie is an All-American? Felton Davis one of the best receivers in the country? I agree that MSU '18 is better than MSU '16, but let's not get carried away. Every week we hear that Linebacker X and Quarterback Y are "the best we've seen so far this year." 

Honestly, playing on the road scares me more than MSU's roster.


October 17th, 2018 at 11:15 AM ^

Many, if not most publications, had Bachie as a pre-season second or third AA and he has not disappointed. 

Yes, Felton Davis is very good.  He does not have as many targets as a lot of other receivers because MSU runs (or tries) to run the ball a ton and the offensive line has not given Lewerke time.  But he had 8 catches for 100 yards and two TDs last Saturday and went over 800 yards with 9 TDs last year.  He is a pro, for sure.


October 17th, 2018 at 9:48 AM ^

I toured the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids last month. There is a display case that contains both Ford’s and Ward’s football uniforms, as well as some letters between Yost and the GaTech AD.


October 17th, 2018 at 9:57 AM ^

I will unfortunately remember that 2012 victory as only being a minor comfort in the week where I had lost one of my sisters to an overdose. It was very hard to concentrate on Michigan football, but she had been a fellow fan and I am sure she would have been pleased with the outcome, however ugly the game was. 

Goggles Paisano

October 17th, 2018 at 10:16 AM ^

I was at that game and watched us shut down L'eveon Bell.  I thought to myself that he wasn't really that impressive at all.  I guess I turned out to be wrong on that one.  


October 17th, 2018 at 10:30 AM ^

The only two times I can recall a good Michigan team having a good season lose in East Lansing were 2011 and 1999. 

The 1999 MSU team was Saban's best Spartan team; they went 10-2 that season and finished #7 in the AP poll.  Michigan came into that game ranked #3, having beaten a good Wisconsin team in Madison and then blowing out a Drew Brees-led, top-15 Purdue team.  What really sucked is that Michigan lost that game to State (the score was 34-31 but State was clearly the better team that day), then blew a 20-point lead at home against Illinois the following week, but then won all their other games and finished the season 10-2.  Michigan finished the season ranked #5 after beating Alabama in the Orange Bowl.   

However, plenty of other good Michigan teams having good seasons have gone into East Lansing and won.  The 2016 team obviously did so, but so did the 2003 team, the 1997 team, the 1991 team, the 1989 team, and on into the past.  


October 17th, 2018 at 12:30 PM ^

That's a pretty difficult one to call.  That team wasn't very good by the eye test; they finished 8-4 with a lucky win at Wisconsin, a loss to a mediocre OSU team, and got blown out by Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl.  But I didn't realize they were 6-1 heading into the MSU game.  The one loss was that game at Washington when we had a big lead and then got a FG blocked and returned for a TD, then threw a pick-6 on the next possession.  But for that it would have been a 7-0 team heading into Spartan Stadium. 

Newton Gimmick

October 17th, 2018 at 1:29 PM ^

That 1999 Michigan-Purdue game featured what will probably end up as the top two all time passing yardage leaders in the NFL.  

The Big Ten takes a lot of crap from the media, and even from Brian, but that was one year where it was quietly the best conference in the nation.

Boner Stabone

October 17th, 2018 at 10:40 AM ^

I have this feeling that we are going to blow the doors off of Sparty (2006 Notre Dame fashion).  I think this game is Harbaugh's coming out party with the troops.  Things have been a quiet laser focus this week and I like the approach going into this game.  

Now that I have said that, Sparty might get lucky again and there will be a 40 mph sideways rain on Saturday and all heck breaks lose from my original statement.