Five Most Stunning Moments For Michigan And Michigan State In 2018

It was a year of unfulfilled dreams.

Will Burchfield
December 26, 2018 - 2:00 pm

© Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

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2018 was anything but a quiet year for the men’s football and basketball programs at Michigan and Michigan State. All four teams set their sights on a national championship. Only one of them really delivered.

The collective talent made for a number of memorable moments, the shared aspirations made for just as many crushing ones. With 2018 coming to a close, let’s back a took back at the five most stunning developments this year for the Wolverines and Spartans.

5. Enos Spurs Michigan For Alabama

We begin off the field, where former Spartans quarterback Dan Enos, who later coached at Michigan State under Mark Dantonio, switched sides in the rivalry and accepted a job under Jim Harbaugh as an offensive assistant. This was in early January.

As if that wasn’t surprising enough, Enos ditched Michigan a few weeks later for a similar job under Nick Saban at Alabama. Enos was on the recruiting trial for the Wolverines when news broke the Crimson Tide had hired him as quarterback coach/associate head coach.

With Enos playing a key role in Alabama’s explosive offense, led by Heisman-candidate Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback, the Crimson Tide rolled through the regular season en route to the SEC championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Ironically, Nick Saban was an assistant coach at Michigan State during Enos’ senior season in 1987.

4. Spartans Shock Penn State

Mark Dantonio’s teams are most dangerous when they’re being counted out, right? No need to remind James Franklin and Co.  

Coming off a home loss to Northwestern, the unranked Spartans travelled to Happy Valley in October to take on then-No. 8 Penn State. The Nittany Lions were 13.5-point favorites. But the Spartans hung around, as they often do in such circumstances, and suddenly it was a game.

Clinging to a 17-14 lead, Penn State appeared to have things wrapped up when Michigan State punted the ball away with 1:46 remaining – a big gamble by Dantonio, who risked never getting it back. But his stout defense came through, and his offense retook the field at its own 24 with 1:10 to go.

51 seconds and five passes later, the Spartans were in the end zone, courtesy of a 25-yard strike from Brian Lewerke to Felton Davis III. And Dantonio had another improbable victory on his resume.

3. Spartans Flame Out

All the ingredients were there last season for Tim Izzo and Michigan State to make a deep run in March. They had the gaudy regular season success. They had the stars. And they had home court advantage in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, opening play as a three seed at Little Caesars Arena.

The Spartans took care of business, albeit in dicey fashion, against Bucknell in round one. That set up a matchup with Syracuse, an 11 seed that had to win a play-in game just to earn a spot in the field of 64. Michigan State led for much of the game, and looked poised to salt it away when they went up five with about five minutes play.

They would not make a field goal for the rest of the game. The Orange made just enough and snuck out of town with a stunning 55-53 win. Michigan State finished the game a staggering 18-66 from the field, including 8-37 from three.

Perhaps the most head-spinning number was this one: eight minutes, the total amount of playing time for Jaren Jackson Jr. in the second half. The soon-to-be fourth overall pick in the NBA was glued to the bench for most of the final 2:40, while sixth-year senior Ben Carter took his place. It’s an image that Spartan fans will long remember and would rather forget.

2. Buzzer Beater Saves Wolverines

Also a three seed in March coming off a Big Ten tournament championship, Michigan was a popular pick to make some noise. The Wolverines’ dreams wound up on life support in the second round against Houston when they found themselves down by two with four seconds to go and the Cougars heading to the line. Two free throws would ice the game.

But Houston junior Devin Davis missed the first and then the second. Michigan grabbed the rebound and called a timeout. And John Beilein drew up a play. That play ended with freshman Jordan Poole drilling a three at the buzzer, sending Michigan to a 64-63 win and into the Sweet 16. Just to add to the shock value, Poole would say later that he had been poked in the eye a few minutes prior and was having trouble seeing.

Of course.

Michigan bombed Texas A&M in the Sweet 16, then took care of Florida State in the Elite 8 to punch its ticket to the Final Four. The journey would end one stop short of glory, but the moments that fueled it will live on for a long time. And none longer than Poole’s big shot.

1. Defense? What Defense?

2018 was supposed to be the season Jim Harbaugh turned things around against Ohio State. The Wolverines rolled into Columbus as favorites for the first time in over a decade, buoyed by the No. 1 defense in the nation. A win would send them into the Big Ten championship game and possibly a spot in the College Football Playoff, both for the first time.

The Buckeyes had other ideas. Led by quarterback Dwane Haskins, they made a mockery of Michigan’s vaunted defense in a stunning 62-39 win. It wasn't so much the result that was so stunning, but the way in which it went down. After the game the Wolverines were at a loss for words, unsure how to account for what just happened. It was their year, and then it wasn’t.

Make it 14 out of 15 for Ohio State over Michigan. And make it zero out of four for Harbaugh.