Austin Murphy was in East Lansing, Mich., last Saturday and filed this report.
This time the Wolverines had no excuses. Until last Saturday, Michigan hadn't lost to archrival Michigan State since 1990, when Spartan cornerback Eddie Brown got away with one. Brown, you may recall, tripped Wolverine wideout Desmond Howard as he ran into the end zone on a two-point conversion attempt that would have won the game. No flags were thrown and Michigan State prevailed 28-27.
This year's game didn't turn on one play. As Spartan quarterback Jim Miller said as he walked off the field after the 17-7 victory, "We just kicked their butts for four quarters."
Tyrone Wheatley, the splendid tailback for the Wolverines, was in no position to disagree. He had only 33 yards on 11 carries. Michigan's 23 rushes were the fewest in school history. "We've got to be tougher than we were today," said Wolverine coach Gary Moeller, who saw his team fall to 3-2. "Maybe we're not that good."
Maybe? Penn State, which plays the Wolverines on Saturday in Happy Valley, is eager to help them find out for sure. Like the Spartans, who are now 3-1, the Nittany Lions have a superb defensive line. Like the Spartans, they will have had two weeks to prepare for the Wolverines, who no longer strike fear in the hearts of their opponents. "We knew we could flat outplay them," said Miller, whose 18-for-24 passing performance was masterly.
For Miller, a junior, the victory was sweet revenge for two reasons: The last two seasons his team lost to the Wolverines by a combined score of 80-38; and 13 years ago his sister, Sue, in a fit of pique, took a shovel and opened a gash on his chin that needed 40 stitches to close. Sue is now a graduate student at Michigan.
After West Virginia moved to 5-0 with a 36-34 win over previously unbeaten Louisville, Mountaineer coach Don Nehlen was positively euphoric—for him. "We beat one very good team," said the normally taciturn Nehlen. "I don't want to play them again."
Forgive Nehlen his unabashed delirium; he had just beaten a Top 25 team for the first time since 1989. After he looks at the film, however, Nehlen may not be quite so ecstatic. For more than three quarters, the game revolved as much around lousy defense as it did around outstanding offense. West Virginia had no more luck stopping Jeff Brohm, who became the first visiting quarterback to throw four touchdown passes at Mountaineer Field, than Louisville had stopping Mountaineer tailback Robert Walker, whose 161 rushing yards included three TD jaunts. But the Cardinals, who had gone into the game leading the nation in turnover margin, fumbled twice and had two interceptions in a span of 6:38 during the fourth quarter to end their chances of winning.