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William F. Reed
September 23, 1991
The Fall of the Spartans
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September 23, 1991

College Report

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The Fall of the Spartans

Because he didn't want his Central Michigan players to be intimidated by Michigan State's 76,000-seat Spartan Stadium ( Central Michigan's Kelly/Shorts Stadium in Mount Pleasant seats only 20,086), Chippewa coach Herb Deromedi didn't let his team work out on the field the day before the game. He waited until last Saturday morning before putting his 60-man traveling squad on the bus for the 70-mile trip to East Lansing. Perhaps that psychological ploy had something to do with Central Michigan's stunning 20-3 victory over the 18th-ranked Spartans. More likely, though, the Chippewas were simply making the most of their long-awaited chance to show the world that not all the state's good football is played in East Lansing and Ann Arbor.

For years Central Michigan and its two Mid-American Conference brethren from Michigan—Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan—have been trying to get a game with Michigan State and Michigan. Former Wolverine coach Bo Schembechler steadfastly refused, apparently fearing what happened to the Spartans. Indeed, Schembechler's initial reaction to the upset, in his new role as a studio analyst for ABC, was to blurt out that Michigan State should never have scheduled the Chippewas.

Bad show, Bo. To the contrary, Spartan coach George Perles should be commended for giving Deromedi and his players the chance of a lifetime. "It took somebody big to do that," said Deromedi, a 1960 Michigan graduate who has a 96-42-7 record since taking over at Central Michigan in 1978.

Not that Perles didn't have second thoughts after the game. "We lost, we're embarrassed, and we'll have to live with it," said Perles, whose team next season again opens at home against Central Michigan, completing a deal made seven years ago.

When asked how the Chippewas' football budget stacked up against those of the state's two major powers, Deromedi laughed and said, "There's no comparison. We spent less than $30,000 recruiting last year, and I imagine Michigan State spent many times that."

Still, the Spartans gained only 228 yards against the Chippewa defense, which forced three turnovers, and Michigan State's defense couldn't stop Central tailback Billy Smith, who ground out 162 yards on 40 carries, including a 15-yard touchdown run at the end of the first half. As the game wore on, most of the crowd of 71,629 fell silent, but Central Michigan supporters apparently had a ball. "There was hardly anybody in town when we got back," said Deromedi. "I think most of the town went to the game, and a lot of people stayed down there to celebrate."

Deromedi celebrated by watching the Penn State-USC game on TV at home with his family. Then he went to his office at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, so he could get his work done before the congratulatory phone calls began pouring in.

Some Like It Hot

The sunshine boys from UCLA were unprepared for the 112� heat on the artificial turf in Tennessee's Neyland Stadium. "The heat got to our heads," said Bruin free safety Othello Henderson following the Volunteers' 30-16 victory.

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