NBC Sports Network is opening the vault this week to show some of the classics of their past sporting event broadcasts. For those Michigan State Spartan fans out there we are in luck as one of the great moments of the last 50 years for MSU football is included in the events.
The 1988 Rose Bowl
The 1987 Spartans clinched their first Big Ten Championship in nine years, and their first outright conference title since 1966. The Spartans went unbeaten in their final nine games to finish with a 9-2-1 record, and finished as the No. 8 ranked team in the national polls.
How did the George Perles coached team do it? MSU opened the season on the national stage with the first ever night game of Spartan Stadium history. The ABC telecast would witness Michigan State going on to win the 8:00 pm ET kickoff 27-23 over the then No. 19 USC Trojans.
However, the following two games saw lopsided losses of 31-8 in South Bend to the No. 9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish and a 31-3 loss to the No. 6 Florida State Seminoles in East Lansing. That was the last time the Spartans would lose that season, and it was the only time the defense would give up more than two touchdowns for the rest of the season.
The recipe for success that season was an outstanding running back, a stifling defense, and a world-class punter. Running back Lorenzo White accounted for 357 of MSU’s 700 carries from the tailback position. His 1,572 yards and 16 touchdowns led him to a fourth place finish in the Heisman Trophy voting. Quarterback Bobby McAllister chimed in with some of the rushing load, running on 136 rushing attempts to go with his 139 passes, 34 of which ended up in the hands of wide-out Andre Rison.
On the other side of the ball, sophomore All-Big Ten middle linebacker Percy Snow led a defense that allowed the fewest rushing yards in the nation, finished second overall in the country, and ranked eighth in points allowed.
Punter Greg Montgomery, who joined White and offensive tackle Tony Mandarich as first-team All-Americans, dominated the ever important field position battle with his booming kicks. Montgomery’s 86-yarder in the crucial 17-11 victory over Michigan remains the standing Big Ten record to this day. Despite this record, some people have trouble with this fact:
All told by end of the season, the Spartans would beat six teams who were ranked in the top-25. MSU would collect wins over the No. 17 Iowa Hawkeyes after a spirited halftime speech by Perles in the pink locker room of Kinnick when trailing 14-7, the No. 12 Michigan Wolverines, the No. 15 Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus, and the No. 16 Indiana Hoosiers during their Big Ten campaign. Despite a 14-14 tie to the Illinois Fighting Illini in East Lansing on October 24, Michigan State would win the Big Ten outright and clinch their first Rose Bowl trip since their 1966 loss to the UCLA Bruins. Their opponent? The very same USC team they beat in their season opener, except the Trojans were now ranked No. 16 instead of No. 19.
Obviously we all know our Spartans won 20-17 and we proceeded to enter the vast desert parched of the perennial spiked shrub we all were raised to dream of for another 26 years. However, this Saturday we will be able to re-watch that glorious New Year’s Day match-up on the grid-iron in a modern day version of the ancient Sparta versus Troy Trojan War.
When: Saturday, May 2nd
Time: 10:00 PM ET
How To Watch: Watch on your cable provider’a NBC Sports Network Channel, or content will stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports App
Finally, we will get a game thread up for this as well so be sure to join us back here at The Only Colors Saturday night as we relive the glory of the 1988 Rose Bowl win!