ANN ARBOR, MICH., OCT. 13 -- So much was riding on Elvis Grbac's two-point conversion pass toward Desmond Howard. The game, state supremacy and Michigan's national title chances all were up for grabs.

What happened with six seconds remaining will be debated until nobody cares to listen. But know this: The officials did not call interference on Michigan State cornerback Eddie Brown and ruled Howard did not have possession of the ball, leaving the Spartans with a 28-27 triumph over the top-ranked Wolverines today before 106,188 -- the third-largest crowd at Michigan Stadium.

Michigan (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) slipped coming out of the blocks after one week as the nation's No. 1 team. The upset by the Spartans (2-2-1, 1-1), 12-point underdogs, opens the way for No. 2 Virginia to claim the top spot in the Associated Press media poll.

"It's by far the toughest loss I've been associated with," Grbac said. "This rips your guts out."

Grbac threw for 213 yards and two touchdowns, and Jon Vaughn ran for 162 yards. Howard scored on a 95-yard kickoff return. Michigan had plenty of theatrics, but Michigan State moved the chains -- with Dan Enos throwing for 143 yards and tailbacks Tico Duckett and Hyland Hickson combining for 183 yards rushing.

Howard's kickoff return -- second longest in school history -- made it 21-21 with 5:50 left, but the Spartans responded with a 70-yard drive capped by Duckett's nine-yard run with 1:59 left, making it 28-21. The Wolverines drove 71 yards in 1:53, scoring on a perfectly timed turnaround pass from Grbac to Derrick Alexander.

Michigan opted to go for the win, rather than the tie, and used a pass play with three wideouts and one back.

"Our kids knew that play inside-out and executed it perfectly," Michigan Coach Gary Moeller said. "But the philosophy of the officials is: 'Don't throw the flag! Don't throw it!' Our guys said their back tackled Desmond {while the pass was in the air} and our kids thought he had the ball long enough."

Howard said his left leg was swiped at by Brown, but was more concerned with the ruling on the lack of possession. He caught the ball, hit the ground with his back and lost it. "I definitely had possession," he said. "But the ref made the call."

Referee John Nealon explained that the covering "officials just didn't see it as an interference-type situation. It looked to me like he never really had possession of the thing. He hits the ground and it's coming out. So what we are saying is he didn't have possession."

Brown all but said he interfered with Howard. "He pushed me first, but I pushed him second," Brown said. "And it's always the second guy who gets caught. I thought maybe I'd see a flag. When I didn't, I got up and headed for the sidelines as fast as I could."

Some fans poured on to the field at that point and chaos ensued. The field was cleared and Wolverines free safety Vada Murray recovered J.D. Carlson's onside kick.

Grbac had one more fling at victory from the Michigan State 47. His pass came down in a crowd at the 2, and Brown intercepted.

"It won't matter," Spartans Coach George Perles said. "Nothing will take the joy away from this game."

Michigan trailed by a point and could have maintained control of its destiny in the Big Ten and Rose Bowl races by kicking the extra point. But a chance to win the national title doesn't come around often in Ann Arbor.

"It was a hard decision," Moeller said. "I called the kids together and told them the ramifications. They all wanted to go for it, and so did I."