ANN ARBOR, Mich. – There’s an interesting subplot to this weekend’s Michigan football game against Northern Illinois: Former Michigan State quarterback Rocky Lombardi returns to the Big House one year after shocking the Wolverines on that very field.
It was perhaps the worst loss of the Jim Harbaugh era, and one that Michigan fans won’t soon forget. After blowing out ranked Minnesota on the road in the opener and watching Michigan State lose to Rutgers, Michigan was a three-touchdown favorite heading into the game.
Lombardi led an extremely unlikely offensive explosion, throwing for 323 yards and three touchdowns. The Spartans took an early lead and never looked back, writing another stunning chapter in this unpredictable rivalry.
On Saturday, Lombardi returns with Northern Illinois across his chest, looking to capture some of that previous magic.
He’s already taken down one Power Five opponent this season, tossing two touchdown passes in a road win over Georgia Tech. Last week, he followed up with 233 yards and a trio of interceptions in a loss to Wyoming.
Overall, Lombardi has completed 30 of 53 pass attempts (56.6%) this season for 369 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.
Although the noon game atmosphere against Northern Illinois isn’t likely to be quite as hostile as last week’s night game against Washington, Lombardi will likely get a bit of the Giles Jackson treatment from those in attendance.
Jackson, who transferred from Michigan to Washington this offseason in a less-than-amicable split, heard loud boos every time his name was called over the public address system.
After what Lombardi did against Michigan in 2020, he’s likely to receive a similarly warm welcome.