A villain, at least in the eyes of Michigan fans,
was born in East Lansing five years ago during the Michigan/Michigan State game, but he was not on the field.
He was not a player. He was not a coach. And he was not a referee.
"Spartan Bob," as he was named after the game, was the timekeeper in Spartan Stadium on November 3, 2001 as he had been for games year in and year out - but this game would be talked about for years.
As MSU trailed the Wolverines 24-20 with time running out in the fourth-quarter and no times-out remaining, Spartan quarterback Jeff Smoker scrambled towards the goal line. He didn't make it to the end zone, he was down at the two.
With the clock still running, Smoker rushed everyone back to the line of scrimmage so he could spike the ball.
The clock stopped.
The Wolverines thought the game was over, but the clock still showed :01 remaining.
"That's criminal!" shouted the play-by-play voice of the Wolverines.
The crowed went wild. "The Spartans are still alive!" they thought.
There was one play left.
Smoker got the ball, drifted to his right and floated a pass across his body to the back of the endzone over the outstretched arms of Michigan defenders and into the arms of a wide open T.J. Duckett.
"Touchdown MSU!" And a 26-24 Spartan victory over their rivals from Ann Arbor.
Michigan fans have never forgotten this game and they have never forgiven "Spartan Bob" for stopping the clock with :01 remaining for that final play.
There are some things, however, that Michigan fans have forgotten which really put the Wolverines in position to lose the game aside from what "Spartan Bob" may have done wrong. Such as:
- A 15-yard penalty against U-M's Jeremy Leseur for pulling Charles Rogers down by his face mask on a fourth-and-16 play with 1:18 remaining. No penalty means a U-M victory.
- Another penalty for having too many men on the field, giving the Spartans more yardage and keeping them alive.
The worst of all, and this somehow slips the Wolverine fans' minds.
The flag for too many men on the field came out late. Before the flag was thrown, MSU called its last timeout.
But the flag was thrown, the clock was stopped and MSU should have gotten its timeout back. And then Smoker would have been able to use it when he was at the two instead of hurrying to spike the ball and having "Spartan Bob" stop the clock.
No such luck.
As it happened, things still worked out well for MSU in that game, but not the rest of the season.
After the win over Michigan, MSU went on to lose its next three games before downing Missouri to become bowl-eligible. MSU then went on to defeat Fresno State 44-35 in the Silicon Valley Bowl.
Of all the stories and people who have been involved in this rivalry over the years, "Spartan Bob" will be one who is not easily forgotten.