Football Memory Lane: Michigan State and “Clockgate”

**Football Memory Lane is a segment that will be running in August with various contributors providing their favorite moments in Detroit Lions, Michigan State and Michigan football.  With the start of training camp and college practices we’ll take a look back at some great moments from around the state (this was quite hard for the Lions articles)**

I had student tickets all four years I was attending MSU and I’ve been an alumni season ticket holder since 2006.  I’ve seen a lot of games at Spartan Stadium, but “Clockgate” was the most fun, controversial, and memorable.

The day was Saturday, November 3, 2001.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  I woke in my house on Charles Street in East Lansing super pumped, not only because was it game day, but we were getting ready to throw the biggest tailgate/party we had ever thrown.  When you have  a party with a moon jump, an ice luge, tons of food and adult beverages, and hundreds of people, it’s hard to leave.  Yes, I almost sold my ticket to this game.

Michigan came into Spartan Stadium ranked 6th in the nation.  They were 6-1, 4-0 in the Big Ten.  Michigan State was 4-2, 2-2 in the Big Ten.  Please keep in mind this is the time in our program when Bobby Williams was our head coach, the second season after Nick Saban left.  We considered it a successful season if we beat Notre Dame and Michigan, and went to ANY bowl game.  This was our game of the year.

State scored first, Jeff Smoker to Charles Rogers in the back of the end zone!  Whatever happened to those guys?  Oh yeah.  Hayden Epstein answered for Michigan, hitting a 57-yard FG.  7-3 Spartans at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter had back and forth scoring. Michigan’s  John Navarre hit Marquise Walker for a 14-yard TD, then T.J. Duckett ran one in from 2-yards out.  Michigan answered with another TD catch to Walker, this time a 32-yarder.  At the half, Michigan lead 17-14.

In the third quarter, Michigan State’s Dave Rayner hit a 17-yard FG to tie the game at 17.

Rayner hit another 17-yarder in the fourth to put State ahead 17-14.  With the lead and 6 minutes to go in the game, Jeff Smoker fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Grant Bowman.  The Wolverines took advantage, scoring on a 20-yard pass from Navarre to back up quarterback, Jermaine Gonzales.  Michigan had the lead 24-20.

With under 3 minutes to go in the game it looked like the Spartans were done.  But a fourth down incomplete pass was answered by a 15 yard and automatic first down penalty.  Charles Rogers face mask was grabbed and State was still alive.  After a few more complete passes and another Michigan penalty, State had first and goal at the Michigan 3 yard line.   This is when the fun started.

On first down Smoker spiked the ball to stop the clock.  On second down he rolled to the right and was tackled short of the goal line with the clock running down.  The team got to the line and spiked the ball with 1 second left.  This is when Michigan lost their shit.  But play resumed and on fourth down Smoker threw a lob to Duckett in the back of the end zone for the game winning TD.  Michigan State wins 26-24!

I remember when Duckett caught the ball, screaming and then instantly being tackled by my friends.  I was underneath the pile for minutes, in the dark screaming and yelling.  There was an empty shooter of Captain’s stuck between my face and the bleacher.  It was the best feeling I have ever had at Spartan Stadium.

I remember somebody’s leg was pinned under a bleacher and they shouted out “dear god!”  Some people were crying they were so happy (or because they were being crushed) and one of my friends may have shit their pants.

What an awesome game.

Now back to the clock issue.  Watch the above video and listen to Frank Beckmann and Jim Brandstatter bitch about the call [Editor’s Note: This is true, give it a listen.].  What a bunch of baby whine-whines.  After the game Michigan people talked about how clock operator Bob Stehlin, or “Spartan Bob” had stopped the clock before the spike hit the ground.  Oh boo hoo.  Guess What?  Big Ten officials came out and said after further review “Spartan Bob” acted appropriately.

So get over it, we won.  And while you’re at it, get over the 1990 game where your boy Desmond Howard fell down and dropped the ball:

Spoiler: He doesn’t hold on.

Your rebuttal, Pot Roast.



3 Comments on "Football Memory Lane: Michigan State and “Clockgate”"

  1. I feel like this was less a nice memory for you and more like an attack on pot_roast…who as far as I know can’t retaliate

  2. velveteenrabbit81 | August 9, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Reply

    It’s a nice memory, but when I listened to Beckmann and Brandstatter I got angry. No attack, just friendly banter…

  3. “they stopped the clock Jim! They stopped the clock, is this home cookin or what?”
    This highlight still gives me chills, and brings back one of my favorite memories as a student at Michigan State. I too, was in the student section for this game and wound up at the bottom of a pile of bodies after TJ caught the pass and pandemonium ensued. It was a Great win for the Spartans, made even better with the constant bitching of Michigan fans, real and the Walmart variety alike, for months after this game. The bottom line is if there is one-one millionth of a second left on the clock, it’s not going to read 0, there is still time on the clock. Controversy aside it was the correct call. Vote Romney!!!!

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