College football rivalries: Key dates in Michigan–Mich. State history

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 Desmond Howard thought he had a two-point conversion in the 1990 game (Photo: Enoch Lai at en.wikimedia)

Oct. 13, 1990: Michigan State 28, No. 1 Michigan 27

Michigan State came into Ann Arbor unranked and unappreciated. Their 1-2-1 record should have been easy pickings for the No. 1 Wolverines.

Michigan’s offense was loaded: Elvis Grbac at quarterback, Jon Vaughn in the backfield, and Desmond Howard outside.

The Spartans had offensive stars of their own, if only for a day. QB Dan Enos, RBs Hyland Hickson, and Tico Duckett provided enough firepower to give MSU a 21-14 lead with just over five minutes left. Desmond Howard had maybe two big plays left. First, he scored on a 94-yard kickoff return to tie the game at 21.

After Duckett’s nine-yard touchdown run,  Derrick Alexander caught a seven-yard pass from Grbac to trim Michigan State’s lead to one. Risking the No. 1 ranking, Michigan decided to go for two.

Grbac called a slant for Howard, and tossed a strike towards the eventual Heisman trophy winner. Either Howard got his legs tangled with the receivers hands, or he was just plain tackled. In either case the striped shirts only saw that Howard dropped the ball.

In any case, Michigan State led 28-27 with six seconds left. The successful onside kick went for naught and Michigan’s dreams vanished.