Those Were The Days - Michigan State
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Today Detlef takes us back to 1989. And since we're talking about 1989, I need to mention my 1989 thing again because everyone needs to remember. The ranking of Big Ten programs in 1989:
1/2: Michigan/Ohio State.
4-10 who cares?
That's where we were, and that's where we could be again. OK that's all. Here's Detlef.
Illinois travels to Michigan State this weekend. The last time these two teams played, Jeff George Jr. threw the winning touchdown pass to Sam Mays! That was in 2016, Lovie Smith's first year as head coach. Today's tale takes us back to the acid-washed jeans days of 1989, when I was a senior in high school.
October 21, 1989: It was an early kickoff on ESPN in East Lansing. Illinois entered the game ranked 13th, 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the Big 10. Michigan State was struggling at 2-3 and needed a win. It was a gray, overcast fall day before 76,216 at Spartan Stadium.
On the opening possession of the game, Illinois went 75 yards in eight plays to score. On the second play of the game, Jeff George (Sr.) completed a 53-yard pass to Mike Bellamy. George had all day to throw and hit Bellamy who ran to the Michigan State 20-yard line before being shoved out of bounds. George then rolled to his right and threw to a wide-open Dan Donovan from one yard out.
The rest of the first half (most of the game actually) featured lots of punts and offensive miscues. Illinois led 7-0 at halftime. But Courtney Hawkins of Michigan State returned the second half kickoff 85 yards to the Illinois seven-yard line. Two plays later, Tico Duckett scored from the one-yard line to tie the game.
Early in the fourth quarter, Illinois was forced to punt. Brian Menkhausen got a friendly roll and Illinois had Michigan State pinned deep in its own territory, near its own end zone. Unfortunately, Michigan State went on a 16 play, 91 yard drive capped by a 21-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead with 4:18 left in the football game. The Spartan offense had been impotent until that drive.
It appeared Michigan State had won the game after forcing Illinois to punt. Only two minutes remained and if Michigan State got a first down, the Spartans would win. But running back Hyland Hickson fumbled and Quintin Parker recovered for our boys at the Michigan State 35-yard line. However, there was not much time left in the game. Could Illinois pull this rabbit out of a hat?
Quarterback Jeff George and the Illinois offense didn't need much time to score the winning touchdown. He threw two completions of 13 yards each to Jeff Finke and Kameno Bell. Then, George completed a nine-yard touchdown pass to Mike Bellamy for the winning touchdown with one minute left! The drive only took 28 seconds! BOGGLE! Illinois successfully stopped Michigan State on its final drive for a hard-fought 14-10 victory!
"We saw Jeff George take over," Illini head coach John Mackovic said. "I think he's shown that he's an exceptional quarterback." "It was a tough one to lose," Michigan State head coach George Perles said. "You have to give them credit for not giving up and for causing a fumble and putting it in the end zone."
Sources: "It's Big Victory for Illinois, by George" by the Associated Press: October 22, 1989.