Ten years later, the memories haven't dulled.
Specific plays are detailed as though they just happened, and the emotions feel as fresh as they did Oct. 30, 2004.
Michigan was ranked No. 11 and had won six straight after a loss at Notre Dame.
Michigan State was 4-3, and through nearly four quarters, dominated its in-state rival and built what appeared to be an insurmountable 17-point lead, 27-10, with 8 minutes, 43 seconds left.
Four hours and 31 minutes later, Michigan won 45-37 in triple overtime.
"That's the biggest game for us at Michigan State, but probably not for the guys at Michigan," said then-Michigan State coach John L. Smith. "They have the Ohio State game which is bigger for them We wanted to try to make it a rivalry. Quit treating us like the red-headed stepchild, stop treating us like the kid brother. Show us some respect."
Michigan State built that enormous lead, and the announced crowd of 111,609 at Michigan Stadium emptied.
"A lot of people left," said Mike Hart, Michigan's career leading rusher who was a freshman that season. "Thousands upon thousands left. It was not some people. It was a lot of people. If I was a fan, I would have left, too. Down 17 with seven minutes left, who comes back, right? Who comes back?"
After all, Michigan rallied from a 28-7 deficit entering the fourth quarter at Minnesota a year earlier for a 38-35 victory.
"A lot of the same guys who played in that Minnesota game were still on the team," said former Michigan receiver Jason Avant, now with the Carolina Panthers. "We knew we could win (the Michigan State game). We just played a perfect football game from eight minutes on. That's what happens when you lay an egg for pretty much the whole game — you have to play a perfect game from that point on."
Former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said during spring and preseason camps he preached to his players to never consider losing even while trailing. They would practice situations where they were behind 10 points with little time left.
"You don't think about losing," Carr said. "You think, 'We've got to score on this possession.' We're hurrying up. If you entertain losing in your mind, you maybe have a thought here or there, you have to get rid of those. You concentrate on the next play. Most cases you're in that situation, you're not going to win. But if you don't think you're going to win, you most certainly won't."
Stanton view 'horrible'
Michigan State had lost quarterback Drew Stanton just before the half after LaMarr Woodley slammed him to the ground, separating his right shoulder.
Up to that point, Stanton had rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown and thrown for 95 yards.
"I was running the option right before the half, and he just caught me," Stanton said. "I couldn't brace myself and landed in a bad position on my shoulder. It popped out. Had it been my left shoulder, not a problem, but with it being the right shoulder, I couldn't throw a football."
Dressed in street clothes after halftime, Stanton watched the rest of the game from the sideline.
"Horrible," Stanton said, describing that feeling. "Fans are yelling at you, which wasn't a big deal, but horrible from the standpoint I wanted to be out there. I knew the significance of that game, and I knew how well we were playing at that time."
Even with Stanton out, Michigan State rolled.
DeAndra Cobb, who finished with 205 yards rushing, opened the scoring with a 72-yard touchdown run. He scored on a 64-yard run to build the 27-10 lead with just under nine minutes left.
Doug Nussmeier, now Michigan's offensive coordinator, was Michigan State's quarterbacks coach, and was in the press box. After Cobb's score, he said one of the Michigan State assistants jumped in the air celebrating with his arms stretched as though signaling a touchdown. He smashed a glass window pane above, and the shattered glass spilled on them.
"We spent the rest of the fourth quarter and the overtimes just draped in glass," Nussmeier said, dismissing any stories it was broken in anger after the loss. "That's one thing I will never forget about that game. It was a great football game."
Michigan's next drive stalled at the Michigan State 7-yard line, and Garrett Rivas made a 24-yard field goal with 6:27 left.
Rivas, who made three field goals in the game, then executed the onside kick.
"I didn't actually hit the ball right," Rivas said, explaining he was supposed to drive the top of the ball straight down so it would bounce straight up. "I mis-hit it."
Brian Thompson recovered for Michigan.
"I lined up next to Garrett," Thompson said. "Everybody had their duties. My job was to go wherever the ball went. It went off one of the State guys and bounced back. I curled back behind the guys and pounced on it."
Carr knew they had renewed life.
"You almost always need some kind of break," he said. "The onside kick was an incredible break and well done."
Then, quarterback Chad Henne and receiver Braylon Edwards found a rhythm.
"To do it with a freshman quarterback and all the pressure of that game," Carr said. "The players saw the people leaving. You had to keep your focus in the game."
Michigan needed two plays and 15 seconds to pull within 27-20 when Henne found Edwards in the end zone. Edwards grabbed the ball away from Michigan State's Jaren Hayes for the 36-yard score.
On their next possession, the Wolverines needed 14 seconds to tie the game when Edwards out-jumped Hayes for the 21-yard touchdown pass with 2:59 left.
"Tackle him. Don't let him catch the football. Put three guys on him," Stanton said of what he was thinking at the time about Edwards' performance. "Everyone knew where Chad was trying to throw the ball. We were all sitting there dumbfounded that it continued to happen."
Michigan State had a chance to win in regulation, but Dave Rayner's 50-yard attempt into the wind fell short.
Hart did 'dirty work'
Then came overtime — or three.
Each team got field goals in the first overtime before Jason Teague scored from 3 yards to give Michigan State a 37-30 lead in the second overtime.
But Avant scored on Michigan's chance to tie it 37-37.
"I saw the coverage, it was man to man," Avant said. "Chad looked to me, and I knew he was going to throw the fade."
Michigan got the ball first in the third overtime, and scored on Edwards' 24-yard reception, his third touchdown of the game. Tim Massaquoi completed the two-point conversion for a 45-37 lead.
"All I can remember was Edwards catching it. He was pretty special," Smith said. "Edwards. Edwards. Edwards."
Michigan State then came up short, and it was over.
Michigan prevailed, with Henne throwing for 273 yards and four touchdowns, and Hart rushing for 224 yards and a touchdown.
"Braylon scored all the touchdowns, I did all the dirty work — that's what I always tell him," Hart said, laughing. "He was an amazing player, he and Jason Avant. There's no way we win that game without Braylon Edwards and Jason Avant."
And maybe no way Michigan wins if Stanton had not been hurt.
"That's what everybody says," Stanton said. "I think it gives Michigan State people more comfort in thinking that. I let people believe that, but you don't know how the outcome would have changed if I had been there.
"That game in particular is why I went to Michigan State, and to never beat Michigan is difficult for me."