September 19, 1987 - Tim Brown starts the Heisman campaign

Tim Brown Sports IllustratedLeading up to the 1987 season, just about every major sports publication had pegged Tim Brown as the front runner to win the Heisman Trophy. Michigan State also had a potential Heisman winner on their squad as well, running back Lorenzo White. In the first week of the season Notre Dame won at Michigan 27-6 and Michigan State beat Southern Cal 27-13. With both teams ranked and 1-0, the game was being hyped as the battle of Heisman contenders. #17 Michigan State was coming to South Bend to play #9 Notre Dame in the fourth night game of Notre Dame Stadium's history.

Michigan State coach, George Perles, was not worried about "Touchdown Timmy," a threat receiving, rushing or returning. Perles had faith in his punter that averaged 48.2 yards per kick the week before. Brown thought otherwise.

Tim BrownMichigan State received the opening kick of the 72nd straight sellout. MSU's return man Blake Ezor caught the kick at the one yard line, took a step back and a took a knee, expecting a touchback to bring the ball out. The ref runs down, claps his hands over his head, safety. Without a second running off the clock, Notre Dame already had the lead 2-0. It was the first time a team had scored with the clock still reading 15:00 in the first quarter. Michigan State's free kick went to the 50 and on Notre Dame's ensuing possession made the game 5-0 after a 27 yard field goal.

The opponent's offense would stall on its next two possessions. Michigan State would be forced to punt and their power kicker would outkick his coverage. Tim Brown caught the ball at his own 29 yard line and had the space to get up to speed, making Spartans miss and ran it back 71 yards for a touchdown. Still in the first quarter, the Irish now led 12-0. On the second punt that traveled to the Notre Dame 44 yard line, Brown once again slipped through the kicking team and tied the NCAA record with his second punt return for a touchdown on the day. After the 66 yard run, Notre Dame led 19-0 as the first quarter ended. Both punt returns are in the video below, along with some commentary by Brown himself.

Lou Holtz was 0-4 against Michigan State for his career (losses at Notre Dame, North Carolina State and Minnesota) and the team was not going to sit back now. This time the defense would apply the pressure and sacked the State quarterback for a two yard loss into the end zone for the second safety of the day. After two safeties, a field goal and two punt returns, Notre Dame had a standard three score lead of 21-0. Before the half would end, Ted Gradel would make a 37 yard field goal to lead 24-0 at half time.

The third quarter was not any easier on the Spartans. A forced fumble set up a four yard score by Anthony Johnson to extend the lead 31-0. Notre Dame's score would hold there for the rest of the game and with a minute to go, Michigan State would finally find the end zone preventing the shutout. The final score would read Notre Dame 31 - Michigan State 8.

MSU          0   0   0   8  -   8
ND           19  5   7   0  -  31

Michigan State would bounce back after starting 0-2 and finish the season 9-2-1, winning both the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl. By the end of the season, Notre Dame would limp to an 8-4 record. Despite the late setbacks, Tim Brown would only get better. In his Heisman winning season Tim Brown would have 846 yards on 34 receptions (24.9yd average), 144 rushing yards, 401 yards on 34 punt returns (11.8yd avg), 456 yards on 23 kickoff returns (19.8yd avg) while scoring 8 touchdowns. Tim Brown was the first wide receiver to ever win the Heisman Trophy and would be Notre Dame's seventh Heisman winner. In the 1988 Draft, Brown would be the sixth overall pick and debuted with the Los Angeles Raiders the following season. Brown remained with the Raiders until 2003, played one season for Tampa Bay and then retired after the 2004 season. Recently, Brown has been starting a NASCAR team (with help from Roush Fenway Racing) as part of the Drive for Diversity program.

Keywords: football, michigan state, tim brown, night game, heisman, ted gradel, lou holtz

Posted On: 2011-09-19 03:15:00 by IrishTrpt07


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