The 2-1 Spartans face a 1-3 Central Michigan team in East Lansing this Saturday. Michigan State has been humbled by the Chippewas before and can learn from the losses of the past.
When Michigan State prepared for the 1991 season, the Spartans were defending Big Ten Co-Champions and had visions of a return to the Rose Bowl.
Michigan State entered the season as the #18 team in the nation and had an opening date in East Lansing with Central Michigan of the MAC.
On a day that felt like Michigan State was asleep all afternoon, Central Michigan dominated the woozy Spartans en route to a shocking and depressing 20-3 win at Spartan Stadium.
The upset was worthy of a New York Times article –
The Chippewas, rightly, carried head coach Herb Deromedi off the field that afternoon as Spartans walked around in a daze wondering what the hell had just happened.
Michigan State never woke up for the remainder of that 1991 season – while head coach George Perles juggled coaching and athletic director duties – and finished with a 3-8 record.
Just to illustrate that the 20-3 in 1991 whipping wasn’t a fluke, Central Michigan stomped into Spartan Stadium the very next season and didn’t show much deference to the hosts for the second straight year.
The 1992 game ended with the Chips winning, 24-20.
The fact that the game was close mattered in the way a doctor telling you that the boil on your buttocks is only going to grow to be two more inches in diameter matters.
Herb Deromedi didn’t even get carried off the field this time.
Michigan State had lost two straight times to Central Michigan – at Spartan Stadium.
Coach Deromedi is a college football legend having compiled a record of 110-55-10 in sixteen seasons (1978 – 1993) as the head coach at Central Michigan.
Deromedi won three MAC Championships and was appropriately inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007.
However, I propose that even Deromedi himself, if given truth serum, would acknowledge that the two straight wins at East Lansing against the Spartans were something of a surprise.
Let’s be clear – Central Michigan’s wins in those two games were anything but a fluke as the Chips took it to Michigan State in every way.
But even in looking back on those shockers, it’s hard to say that they weren’t shockers.
When Mark Dantonio took over as head coach in East Lansing before the 2007 season, he had a gargantuan task at hand that was, at least initially, as much about changing the culture of the Michigan State program as anything else.
After two seasons that had begun to right the ship he was in charge of – the Spartans went 7-6 in 2007 and 9-4 in 2008 – Dantonio’s Spartans were 1-0 in 2009 when Central Michigan showed up on the schedule.
The game was in East Lansing.
Herb Deromedi wasn’t around as head coach any more – the Chippewas were led by current Alabama intern, Butch Jones.
After a hard-fought game, Central Michigan missed a last-second field goal and Michigan State was going to escape with the win….
But, it took longer than many thought it would to rid Spartan Stadium of the ghosts from years gone by and an offsides penalty against Michigan State gave the Chips another shot at the final field goal attempt.
The second kick was good and Central had achieved its THIRD win over Michigan State at Spartan Stadium.
It was Jones’s turn to get carried off the field by his players after a Central Michigan victory over Michigan State at Spartan Stadium.
The Spartans would go on to have a herky-jerky 2009 season that ended with a 6-7 record following a loss to Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl.
The 2018 Central Michigan Chippewas aren’t the 1991, 1992, or 2009 Chips.
These Chips are 1-3, having just notched their first win over Maine (17-5).
The first three weeks for Central Michigan looked like this:
- At Kentucky – LOSS, 35-20.
- Kansas – LOSS, 31-7
- At Northern Illinois – LOSS, 24-16.
This Central Michigan team might not have the firepower to do what other Central Michigan teams have done to Michigan State.
But somewhere, Coach Deromedi is talking about what he and his guys did in Spartan Stadium two straight times.
And Michigan State would be wise to keep these moments in mind as the Spartans prepare for a chance to get to 3-1 on the season.