Even though Michigan State was the favorite to win Saturday’s game against Michigan, there was still some hope among fans that the Wolverines could keep their winning streak alive in this rivalry.
A lot of things had to go in Michigan’s favor for that to happen, and honestly, U-M did catch many breaks in yesterday’s game. However, Michigan State played great and Michigan once again didn’t put together a consistent game for all four quarters. Those two things alone made any breaks Michigan got moot, allowing the Spartans to win 35-21.
- Michigan State faced third down two separate times on the game’s opening drive, and they converted both of them. Brian Hoyer completed a 23-yard pass to Mark Dell on 3rd and 16, moving the chains after a Brandon Graham sack made it seem like the Spartans would soon have to punt. Just three plays later, on 3rd and 5, Hoyer threw a slant pass to Blair White, who avoided a pathetic tackle attempt by Stevie Brown and ran to the end zone for the 61-yard touchdown. Jonas Mouton did a terrible job of covering the slant, but the missed tackle by Brown was even worse, especially since it was just one of the many mistakes he made in this game.
- Michigan’s offense went going three and out on its first drive of the game, but the defense did come up with a stop on MSU’s next drive.
- Michigan started to move the ball thanks initially to the passing game and an 8-yard run by Steven Threet. Two plays after the run, though, Threet fumbled a handoff to Brandon Minor, resulting in a loss of 6 yards after Minor fell on the ball. Michigan State did its best to make Michigan fans forget about Threet’s mistake, as they went offside and then got a pass interference penalty. The interference penalty gave Michigan an automatic first down.
The drive would come to an end a couple plays after the interference penalty due to a Sam McGuffie fumble. He ran for 7 yards and took a big hit that actually appeared to knock him out. A Michigan State player quickly jumped on the ball, and a review upheld the call on the field, meaning the Spartans took over at their own 38-yard line.
- Only two plays into the drive following the McGuffie fumble, Michigan State turned the ball over as well. Brian Hoyer dropped back to pass and looked to throw a screen, but Mike Martin would have batted it down. Because of that, Hoyer didn’t make the throw and instead took a hit from Stevie Brown. When Hoyer was falling, the ball hit the ground and came loose for a fumble. Brown picked it up and returned it to the 18-yard line. Michigan State challenged the call on the field that it was a fumble, but it was upheld since Hoyer’s knee was never down before the ball came out.
- After Threet ran for a loss of a yard and then threw an incompletion, it looked like Michigan would have to settle for a field goal. On third down, though, Threet threw a pass to Brandon Minor, who somehow managed to make a spinning catch with really only one hand. The catch was great, but there was a problem. Minor caught the ball right at the goal line and appeared to be out of bounds, which is what the initial ruling was. He did hit the pylon with his right foot, but according to Rule 4, Section 2, Article 1b, “A player or an airborne player who touches a pylon is out of bounds.”
Despite the rule, the officials reviewed the call and actually overturned it. That’s right, they gave Michigan a touchdown, even though Brandon Minor clearly never got a foot down inbounds and only hit the pylon. Referee David Witvoet admitted Minor was out of bounds after the game, so someone’s got some explaining to do. My guess is the Big Ten will admit the call was wrong sometime tomorrow, but that won’t change the change the fact that Michigan and Michigan State were tied at 7 because of the touchdown.
- Michigan State started moving the ball effectively and got inside the Michigan 30 before making another crucial mistake. Andre Anderson came into the game and got a handoff. While Charles Stewart was trying to make a tackle, Obi Ezeh hit the ball out of Anderson’s hands. Terrance Taylor fell on the fumble, giving Michigan the ball.
- Following a Michigan three and out, the Spartans quickly moved down the field again, this time thanks to a 25-yard run by Keshawn Martin on a reverse and a personal foul by Ryan Van Bergen. Van Bergen got flagged for a late hit, quickly moving Michigan State back into Michigan territory. The defense stood tough following the big run and tackled Javon Ringer for a loss of 3 yards on 3rd and 1.
The usually reliable Brett Swenson came out to attempt a 50-yard field goal, and the kick fell short of the uprights. Donovan Warren caught the missed kick and tried to return it. He only got back to the 20-yard line, and a penalty for an illegal block in the back moved the Wolverines back to the 10. Michigan could have had the ball at the 33-yard line, but because Warren decided to return the kick, they ended up at the 10 instead.
- Both teams proceeded to go three and out before Steven Threet made a terrible mistake when the Wolverines got the ball back again. He threw a pass downfield for fullback Mark Moundros, who was well covered by Marcus Hyde. Moundros wasn’t in position to make the catch, and Hyde got the interception, giving MSU the ball at Michigan’s 41-yard line.
- Michigan State ran a trick play that resulted in a gain of 24 yards. Hoyer threw a pass to Keshawn Martin, who threw a pass back to Hoyer, giving him lots of room to run. It was the same play that John Navarre scored a touchdown on against Minnesota back in 2003.
The Spartans’ drive stalled after the trick play, meaning Swenson had to attempt a 32-yard field goal. John Thompson got past a blocker and was able to get a hand on the kick to keep Michigan State from taking the lead. Donovan Warren actually picked up the blocked kick and went down at the 9-yard line, meaning Michigan started its next drive there instead of at the 20. It was another frustrating error that gave Michigan bad field position.
- Michigan did actually pick up a first down, but a holding penalty negated the play and moved the Wolverines back 10 yards. Steven Threet tried to run for the first down but came up a yard or so short, meaning it was punt time yet again.
- With only 1:14 left in the second quarter, all I wanted was a stop so this game would be tied at the half. When halftime arrived the game was tied, but not at 7. That is because Javon Ringer ran 64 yards for a touchdown on the first and only play of Michigan State’s next drive. Ringer should have been tackled for a gain of only 5 or 6 yards, but he bounced off the pile and was gone. Brandon Graham tried to run Ringer down but was unable to get to him. Just like that, Michigan State led 14-7.
- Boubacar Cissoko returned the ensuing kickoff to Michigan’s 35-yard line, giving the Wolverines decent field position. Threet took advantage of that and quickly got the Wolverines into Michigan State territory by hitting Kevin Koger in the middle of the field for a gain of 35 yards. Threet then ran for 16 yards, and a pass interference penalty on Michigan State in the end zone on the next play moved the ball down to the 2-yard line. The penalty allowed Brandon Minor to punch the ball in for the touchdown, making the score 14-14 at the half.
- The start of the second half was a pair of three and outs, but things were very different when Michigan got the ball back after an MSU punt. An offside penalty by Michigan State gave U-M a first down when the Wolverines had 3rd and 3, keeping the drive going. Tony Clemons made a great catch a couple plays later for a gain of 29 yards. Minor then got a handoff and ran for 20 yards thanks to a solid blocking. With the ball now on the 2-yard line, Threet ran the ball himself and stretched it out to score a touchdown. He received a huge block from Minor on the TD run that put Michigan on top 21-14.
- Michigan State was faced with 3rd and 6 and Michigan’s pass coverage again looked pathetic. Blair White was wide open for a catch and ran down the field for a gain of 50 yards. He is the same player that scored a 61-yard TD on a 3rd down in the first quarter. Just as we had seen before, though, Michigan’s defense rose to the challenge and came up with a stop. Brett Swenson attempted a field goal from 24 yards away and hooked it to the left. The snap was bad, which is why Swenson missed his third field goal of the game.
- The Spartans would follow a Michigan three and out with a much needed touchdown drive that really happened because of U-M’s terrible pass defense on third down. On 3rd and 6, Hoyer found B.J. Cunningham for 12 yards. A few plays later on 3rd and 12, Hoyer threw a 44-yard pass downfield for Mark Dell, who was able to make the catch after Stevie Brown fell down right behind him. Hoyer capped off the drive by hitting Charlie Gantt in the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown. Gantt was open thanks to a fake handoff and more poor coverage. The game was now tied at 21.
- Both teams’ defenses played well to cause a couple more three and outs. Michigan had to punt again soon after, but they did manage to pick up one first down on the drive.
- With the game tied at 21, Michigan State had a chance to take the lead and put the pressure on Michigan. They would eventually do just that thanks in part to Michigan giving up a 17-yard pass to Blair White on 3rd and 5. The Wolverines had an opportunity to end this drive before it even got started but didn’t, as White picked up more than enough yards to move the chains on the same exact play that he scored on earlier in the game.
The very next play was the one that truly changed the outlook of this game. Brandon Harrison got called for pass interference, despite the fact that both he and Blair White were making contact with each other. It was a pretty weak call, but then again, Michigan got its fair share of calls in this game.
- Following the penalty, a 14-yard run by Javon Ringer and a 15-yard pass to Blair White set up what would end up being the game-winning touchdown. Ringer ran into the end zone from 3 yards out for the TD, putting the Spartans on top 28-21 with around seven minutes left in the game.
- Any chance of coming back Michigan had essentially ended on the only play of Michigan’s next drive. Steven Threet underthrew a pass and it was picked off at the Michigan 40.
- Despite knowing exactly what Michigan State was going to do, Michigan couldn’t stop Javon Ringer. They did manage to hold the Spartans to 4th and 1, but MSU went for it. Ringer picked up a yard to move the chains and would later get the ball down to the 7-yard line. MSU was then faced with 3rd and goal, and Hoyer faked a handoff to Ringer, leaving Josh Rouse wide open for the touchdown.
- Now trailing 35-21 with only 3 minutes left, Michigan needed a lot of things to happen in a limited amount of time. Steven Threet underthrew another pass and got picked off by Jeremy Ware, but Ware ran into a teammate on the return and fumbled. Martavious Odoms recovered the fumble, giving the ball back to Michigan.
- Passes to Odoms and James Rogers that went for 18 and 19 yards, respectively, gave fans a little glimmer of hope that Michigan could score a touchdown to make things interesting. Michigan then ran the ball for 4 yards, though, which was really dumb considering they needed two touchdowns and didn’t have much time to score them. Three consecutive incompletions later and Michigan State got the ball back. Darryl Stonum was the cause of one of those incompletions, as he let the ball go through his hands in the end zone. It wouldn’t have been any easy catch to make, but he still should have hauled it in.
- Michigan State took a knee to run out the clock and end the game. The Spartans won 35-21, ending a 6-game losing streak to the Wolverines. The enormous MSU crowd celebrated, and when I was walking back from the game it honestly felt like I was in East Lansing. Michigan State fans were everywhere.
I didn’t expect Michigan to win this game, but I still was deeply disappointed in this team. Outside of the d-line (mainly Brandon Graham), the defense was terrible. They had trouble tackling and couldn’t stop Brian Hoyer on third down. I know people will want to say that the offense isn’t doing much to help the defense, but that is no excuse for playing as badly as the defense did.
Michigan is now 2-6 and heads to Purdue next Saturday to play a fellow 2-6 team. The Boilermakers haven’t won since they narrowly escaped with a victory against Central Michigan on September 20. This is a winnable game for sure, but that doesn’t really mean much considering Michigan sucks. Kickoff is set for noon ET on the Big Ten Network.