10/13/1990- MSU Cheats their Way to Victory
In 1990 MSU got away with a quick one. Michigan had scored with a few seconds remaining in the game to make the score 28-27 MSU. Michigan lined up for a two point conversion to go for the win. Desmond Howard lined up wide left and broke open for the pass. But the Spartan defender Eddie Brown grabbed him as he went by. Desmond stumbled but appeared to have the ball for a moment as he fell to the turf. The ball bounced away and game ended with a 28-27 MSU victory. Michigan came into the game ranked #1 in the country...
Was Desmond Howard interfered with? Definitely. But more importantly did he catch the ball anyway? It appears that he may have had control as he fell in the end zone. But no penalty was called. The next day Big Ten Officials admitted that the referees had blown the call. But the game was in the books as an MSU victory.
Editor-in-Chief Phil Callihan remembers-
"I was at this game. With time running out, Michigan scored in the south end zone (near the student section) to get within a point of MSU. The crowd went crazy as the Wolverines lined up for a two point conversion to go for the win (NOTE: At this time college football didn't have overtime, a tie game ended as a tie.) I saw Desmond break inside and Elvis Grbac delivered the pass to him. I saw the ball hit Desmond in the hands and then lost sight of him as he fell. And then everbody kind of just stood around trying to figure out what had happened. I remember looking up at the scoreboard and wondering why the two point conversion wasn't being counted. At the time I didn't see the interference by the MSU defender. It was only after seeing play later did I find out what had happened.
I had always wondered if the interference was intentional or if it was an accident. In 1999 any doubt was erased by the following article that appeared in the Ann Arbor News.
Willow Run's JV coach says he tripped Desmond Howard on 2-point try in 1990 U-M-MSU game.
By BRIAN MULHERIN
When he woke up Sunday morning, Michigan State wide receiver Plaxico Burress was public enemy No. 1 in Ann Arbor. Eddie Brown knows that feeling all too well. Brown, an Ypsilanti resident and Willow Run High School's junior varsity football coach, was the most hated man in Washtenaw County in 1990. That was when Brown stopped the top-ranked Wolverines in their tracks. With the Michigan State Spartans leading, the Wolverines scored late to pull within one point and then attempted a two-point conversion for the victory.
"Before the game, we studied Michigan and they liked to run the fade route to Desmond Howard and Derrick Alexander," Brown said. "They had beat my teammate Alan Hadier twice on fades earlier in the game."
So when he drew Howard in man-to-man coverage on the conversion attempt, Brown was thinking fade. But Howard gave him a hand-check and went underneath where he was wide open.
"I saw six-foot, five (inch) Elvis Grbac back there about to dump it in there for an easy two points and I'm thinking there's no way I can go back to East Lansing if I give up this play," Brown said. "So I tripped him and I tried to act like I tripped and fell."
His teammates mobbed him as the Grbac pass fell incomplete and no flags were thrown.
"They were grabbing me and jumping me and I was like 'Get off me, get off the field,' because I knew I got away with it," Brown said. Brown said none of his teammates knew about the tripping incident until the celebration that evening. That's when Brown discovered that what he thought was a quick, subtle move had been captured for posterity on superslow motion. But in spite of the hate mail he got while still in college and seeing the play in pregame shows every year, he'd do it again in a heartbeat. "No doubt," Brown said. "I've never had second thoughts about it. If I was to get beat now, I'd interfere a guy in a second. Always take a flag instead of taking a score." Since graduating with a history degree in 1992, Brown has won three Arena Bowl titles with the Tampa Bay Storyn and currently plays wide receiver and defensive back for the Buffalo Destroyers of the same league. Brown's Willow Run team is 3-4 on the season. He said all of his players know his past and, living deep in the heart of Michigan country, still hold it against him.
"This week I got a lot of 'dirty, Brown, you're dirty, "' Brown said. Brown said he hasn't come upon a situation similar to his big play yet in his coaching career. "That would be funny if a kid I was coaching was to do that to win a game," Brown laughed. "I'd probably tell him, 'great play'."