September 10th – at Michigan State          Michigan State 23, Colorado 17

While the Missouri game in 1982 served as Bill McCartney’s collegiate homecoming game, the return to the state of Michigan for the first game of the 1983 collegiate campaign was also a return to familiar territory for coach Mac.

McCartney was a native of Riverview, Michigan, and his eight years on the Michigan Wolverine staff gave the coach some familiarity with the Spartan players. Still, MSU was starting its first game under new head coach George Perles, minimizing any advantage the Buffs may have had in formulating a game plan.

The Spartans were coming off a 2-9 season in 1982, while the Buffs had posted a 2-8-1 record in McCartney’s first season … so the game figured to be competitive.

The Buffs carried a 10-6 lead into the fourth quarter, but couldn’t survive a 17-point onslaught by Michigan State in the final stanza, succumbing, 23-17.

The turning point came with only 6:52 remaining in the game. Michigan State had held a lead of 13-10, and had just kicked a field goal to go up 16-10. Holding the Spartans to three points had kept the Buffs in the game, as Michigan State had driven to the Colorado one yard line before settling for the field goal.

On the ensuing kickoff, however, Victor Scott fumbled, and Michigan State recovered on the Colorado 12 yard line. Two plays later, it was 23-10, and only a Buff touchdown with less than a minute remaining in the game gave the final score some respectability.

For Colorado, the passing game led the way.

Junior quarterback Steve Vogel passed for 228 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore split end Loy Alexander was Vogel’s favorite target, collecting seven catches for 100 yards and a touchdown. Alexander’s touchdown wasn’t by design, however. Steve Vogel’s pass intended for Darryl Johnson bounced off the running back’s hands, finding its way into Loy Alexander’s hands for a 7-3 Colorado lead in the first quarter. The Buffs’ final score, with less than a minute remaining, was a four-yard pass from Vogel to Chris McLemore.

The running game was stifled, advancing the ball for only 47 yards on 32 carries. Also stifling was the weather, with 89-degree heat coupled with 75-percent humidity marking the hottest game ever played in Spartan Stadium.

“I felt we needed a victory,” said Bill McCartney. “It has nothing to do with me returning to Michigan. I just wanted to win … My goal wasn’t to play well. It was to win.”

The loss in the 1982 season opener was the fourth in five seasons for the Buffs. Up next were the Rams of Colorado State. The Colorado state legislature had played a role in mandating the resumption of the series, not played since 1958. It was one thing to have a program headed for a record fifth straight losing season, it would be another thing altogether to lose to little brother CSU …

Game Notes –

– Loy Alexander had seven receptions for 100 yards, the first 100-yard receiving game of his career.

– With the victory, Michigan State became the first Big Ten school to post a second victory against Colorado. Overall, the loss dropped the Buffs’ record against the Big Ten to 8-7-1. The loss also left Colorado with an 0-2 record in games played in the state of Michigan (the other game being a 31-0 loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1974).

– The Michigan State/Colorado game represented the first of 139 for Michigan State head coach George Perles, who would go on to coach the Spartans until 1994. His overall record in East Lansing was 73-62-4, and included a Rose Bowl victory over USC in 1987. In all, Michigan State would appear in seven bowls during Perles’ twelve seasons.


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