Back in 1986, Jamie Morris was on the ground, at the bottom of the pile, as Michigan played against Michigan State.
“Playing against Michigan State is an all-out fight,” said Morris, the Michigan running back from 1984-87.
Morris saw a foot, so he tried to bite it.
Only one problem.
It was his own ankle.
“I bit my damn self,” Morris said, earlier this week. “Yes, I did.”
If nothing else, that sums up the Michigan-Michigan State football rivalry.
The intensity. The attitude. And the ankle-biting ferocity.
“It’s a neighborhood fight – a backyard brawl,” Morris said.
Morris learned the meaning of the rivalry, how each game lives on for years, after he played in the 1984 game. In the third quarter, with MSU leading 13-7, Morris fumbled the ball.
Jim Harbaugh, who was in his first year as the starting quarterback at Michigan, went for the ball and broke his arm. He left the game and the Spartans won, 19-7. Michigan finished 6-6, the only time at U-M that coach Bo Schembechler did not have a winning record.
“It took a fumble and a broken arm from Jim Harbaugh for me to find out how important this game is,” Morris said. “A whole year of being ridiculed.”
The trash talking never stops about this rivalry, which continues at 7:30 p.m. Saturday inside Michigan Stadium.
Earlier this week, Morris talked to one of his best friends, Lorenzo White, the MSU running back from 1984-87.
“He tells me we have a good defense because we have all those Florida boys,” Morris said. "Because he’s from Florida. I’m like, no, dawg, it’s not like that. I always tell him, 'Just remember, my starting quarterback is the coach. Just remember that. He’s been in the fight before. Mark Dantonio is a great coach. He’s done a wonderful job. But now, we got somebody who can spar with him.'
"And he agrees.”
Morris predicts a close game this year when the two teams meet on Saturday, even though Michigan is a double-digit favorite.
“All these point spreads, throw that out the window," Morris said. "Honestly, this game comes down to execution. Comes down to running game. Comes down to quarterbacking. And it comes down to defenses. Everybody says, this (Michigan defense) is the fastest defense ever. No, it’s not. We’ve had fast defenses. The thing about it is, we went through a hiatus when we hadn’t seen a defense like that.”
Michigan State at Michigan
When: Saturday night, 7:30 p.m. on ABC.
Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor.
OK. Let’s go to The Stat. The only stat that matters in this game.
The team that wins the battle on the ground, always, always wins this game (at least in 42 of the last 47 meetings).
So that is always, always true, except when it’s not.
Like last year.
Michigan State outgained Michigan last year on the ground by a 217-192 margin, but Michigan won 32-23.
So let’s try to break down this game in a different way.
Both teams have great coaches.Dantonio has won seven of the past nine meetings and is 3-1 in Michigan Stadium.
Both teams will try to run the ball.