After a one year hiatus, Michigan State is going bowling again. Despite the fact the Spartans were hosed out of a New Year’s Day bowl, they still find themselves in a top-25 matchup in a bowl game with quite a bit of history. So before MSU and Wazzu kick off in San Diego, let’s take a look back at MSU’s bowl history.
Overall Bowl Numbers
This will be the 27th bowl appearance for Michigan State. They are 11-15 all-time in bowl games. The Holiday Bowl will be the 17th difference bowl game the Spartans have appeared in. Their most appeared in bowl game is the Rose Bowl, with five appearances. They also have more wins (4) in the Rose Bowl than any other bowl game.
MSU has played in three of the New Year’s Six bowls, with five Rose Bowls, two Cotton Bowls, and an Orange Bowl appearance. The Orange bowl was MSU’s first ever bowl game, coming all the way back in 1938. MSU lost 6-0 to Auburn in that game.
The Spartans also have the distinction of being one of only four schools to play in a Cherry Bowl. The precursor to the Motor City Bowl, the Cherry Bowl was only played twice, with Michigan State and Army playing in the first game in December of 1984. That game also has the distinction of being the first ever bowl appearance for Army, who defeated the Spartans 10-6 in front of over 70,000 fans at the Silverdome.
Mark Dantonio Era
The Holiday Bowl will be the 10th bowl game for the Spartans in 11 seasons under Mark Dantonio. No other MSU football coach has taken the Spartans to more bowl games. Dantonio is 4-5 in his previous nine bowl games, starting off 0-4 before winning four in a row to get back to .500 before dropping the last game in the College Football Playoff. The four bowl wins are also the most in school history.
MSU vs Pac 12
This will be the ninth time that Michigan State matches up with a Pac 12 team in a bowl game. The Spartans are 5-3 in their previous eight matchups with the Pac 12 in bowls, including a win in their last matchup over Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
This will be the first bowl matchup against Washington State for MSU. In fact, this will be the first time these two schools have played each other since September of 1977. The two teams have played a total of seven times, with MSU winning five of those games. Washington State won the most recent game 23-21 in 1977.
This will be the first Holiday Bowl appearance for Michigan State. The game has been around since 1978, with the Big Ten having a tie in from 1991-1994 and then returning in 2014 when the conference signed a six year tie-in deal.
BYU has appeared in the most Holiday Bowl games, with 11 appearances. They also have two of the most memorable Holiday Bowl moments. The first came in 1980 when BYU, led by Jim McMahon at quarterback, erased a 20 point deficit in the final two minutes of the game to shock SMU in what became known as the “Miracle Bowl.”
In 1984 the #1 ranked BYU Cougars knocked off Michigan 24-17 to finish the season undefeated and were named national champions. It is the only time the national championship was determined at the Holiday Bowl.
Nebraska has the most Holiday Bowl appearances of any current Big Ten team with four, but most of those came when the Huskers were in the Big 12. Iowa has three appearances, and Michigan and Ohio State have each been to the game twice.
MSU in California Bowls
The Holiday Bowl will be the third different California bowl game that Michigan State has played in. It will be their seventh overall appearance in a bowl game in California. They are 5-1 all-time in California Bowl games, with a 4-1 mark in the Rose Bowl and a win in their only appearance in the now defunct Silicon Valley Bowl.
MSU Bowl records
That Silicon Valley Bowl game produced the most prolific individual passing, rushing, and receiving performances in Michigan State bowl history. Jeff Smoker threw for 376 yards, T.J. Duckett ran for 184 yards, and Charles Rodgers had 270 receiving yards.
Smoker threw three TD passes in that game as well, tied for the most by an MSU quarterback in a bowl along with Bill Burke (2000 Citrus) and Bobby McAllister (1989 Gator). Plaxico Burress (2000 Citrus) and Andre Rison (1989 Gator) hold the record for receiving touchdowns with three, and Jeremy Langford (2015 Cotton) and Blake Ezor (1989 Aloha) have the only 3 rushing TD performances in MSU bowl history.
On the defensive side, Percy Snow holds the record for most tackles in a bowl game with 17 in the 1988 Rose Bowl win over USC. Julian Peterson had three sacks in the 2000 Citrus Bowl to set the MSU record in that category. Darqueze Dennard is one of four MSU players to record two interceptions in a bowl game. Mike Iaquaniello did it twice, in back-to-back bowl games in 1989 and 1990.