The stake was a mistake.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke issued an apology for his team planting a stake in the middle of the Spartan Stadium field before Michigan State's 35-11 victory Saturday — the Spartans sixth in the last seven meetings between the in-state rivals.
"I want to publicly apologize to Coach (Mark) Dantonio as well as the players and supporters of Michigan State for our act of poor sportsmanship displayed pre-game yesterday," Hoke said in a statement released by the Michigan athletic department. "I spoke with Mark earlier today and expressed to him that we meant no disrespect to his team."
Michigan linebacker Joe Bolden was shown before the game in the middle of a Michigan pregame huddle with a stake that was planted into the turf.
"During our regular Friday night team meeting, one of the topics presented to motivate our team was a history lesson addressing commitment and teamwork in a tough environment," Hoke said in the statement. "A tent stake was presented to the team as a symbol of this concept. The stake was brought into our locker room as a visual reminder, and one of our team leaders chose to take it out on the field.
"As the leader of our football program, I take full responsibility for the actions of our team. We believe in displaying a high level of respect at the University of Michigan and unfortunately that was not reflected by this action prior to kickoff."
The move, instead, backfired. Michigan State, with the game already in hand, drove 48 yards for its final touchdown, capped by Jeremy Langford's touchdown with five seconds remaining, rather than running out the clock.
"Just felt like we needed to put a stake in them," Dantonio said after Saturday's game. "You might as well just come out and say what you're feeling at some point because you can only be diplomatic for so long. The little brother stuff, all the disrespect, it doesn't have to go in that direction. We try to handle ourselves with composure."