Michigan Loses Heartbreaker in Final Seconds to Michigan State

By · Thursday, January 28, 2010 · 10:51 AM |  Share | Leave a Comment 

It’s tough to put into words just how heartbreaking Tuesday night’s loss was to Michigan State.  That’s part of why it took me this long to even write a recap; it was that disappointing.  Michigan either led or was only down by a few points all game long and was in great position to pull off the upset in the final minutes.  Michigan State did go on a run at one point in the second half, but that only put Michigan behind by 5 points.  It was that close of a game, and the way it ended reflected that.  Kalin Lucas nailed a midrange jumper with 3.5 seconds left to put MSU up 57-56.  Following an MSU foul, Michigan had 1.5 seconds left to find a way to score, and DeShawn Sims got open enough on an alley oop type of play that he had a shot at a mid-air layup.  The ball rolled off the rim, though, keeping the score at 57-56 in favor of the Spartans as time expired.

This was the type of game where you knew every possession greatly mattered and every little thing could alter the ending of the game.  There were two points when it looked like each team was on the verge of pulling away, but both times the other team fought back and quickly evened things back up.  For Michigan, it went on a run in the first half and took a 7-point lead.  It was no surprise that that didn’t hold up for long, as the Spartans whittled away at it to cut the deficit down to 2 at halftime.  For Michigan State, it went on a run in the second half following an injury to Draymond Green.  That run looked like it was going to turn this game into a double-digit victory for the Spartans considering they were scoring on alley oops and dunks that made Michigan’s defense look nonexistent.  Michigan thankfully fought back and never let MSU get ahead by more than 5 points.  Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims then proceeded to bring Michigan back and put the Wolverines ahead by 3 points with two minutes left on the clock.

Michigan had two golden opportunities to potentially put the game away but failed to even come close to scoring either time.  The first chance came after Raymar Morgan turned the ball over.  Michigan ran off the shot clock but was unable to get in position for a good shot.  With the shot clock on the verge of running out, Stu Douglass was forced to put up a low-percentage shot that really didn’t come close to going in.  Morgan bounced back from his turnover on MSU’s previous possession by scoring to make it a 1-point game.  Once again, Michigan ran off the shot clock, but this time it got about as good of a look as possible.  Douglass drove to the hoop but kicked the ball out to Sims when Draymond Green got in position to make a play in the lane.  Sims was wide open and let the moment get to him, as he completely over-shot the three-pointer, resulting in an air-ball.  What happened next was a sequence of events that neither Michigan nor MSU fans will ever forget.

Kalin Lucas was fouled by Manny Harris with around 20 seconds left after Harris inadvertently kicked him in the face.  (Manny jumped up and put his leg out to block a potential pass and caught Lucas in the face by accident.)  MSU came out of the stoppage and initially appeared to be unable to find the look it wanted.  Michigan was playing great defense, but not great enough to stop Kalin Lucas, who may very well be the most clutch player in the country.  Just days after hitting a clutch three against Minnesota to propel MSU to victory on Saturday, Lucas struck again, this time with a pull-up jumper from about 15 feet away.  The shot put MSU up 1 with 3.5 seconds left to play.

The Spartans had a foul to give and used it with 1.5 seconds left, forcing Michigan to draw up an inbounds play from right next to its bench.  The inbounds play was an alley oop to DeShawn Sims, and it was executed extremely well.  The problem for Michigan was that it simply wasn’t finished well.  Sims caught the ball in an awkward position and basically threw it up at the rim while fading away in mid air.  The end result was the ball clanking off the rim and everybody in green and white inside Crisler Arena erupting.

Looking at some stats, it’s easy to see why this game was so even.  Michigan only shot 32.8% from the field, whereas MSU shot 49.0%.  But from three-point land Michigan shot 24.1% (7-29), whereas MSU went 16.7% from behind the arc (2-12).  Other than that the stats that really stuck out were rebounds, steals, and turnovers.  As usual, Michigan was dominated on the boards, getting outrebounded 38-22.  In steals and turnovers, however, Michigan was worlds better than Michigan State.  Michigan only turned the ball over 4 times during the game and had 9 steals.  MSU, on the other hand, turned the ball over 18 times and only managed 2 steals.

Scoring-wise for Michigan, it was again mainly all DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris.  Sims ended up with 19 points (thanks in part to 3 threes) and Manny had 16 coming off the bench.  After that, the next-best scorers were Stu Douglass and Zack Novak, who each had 7 points.  Anthony Wright had 3 points on a single three-pointer, and Zack Gibson and Darius Morris each had 2 points.  Laval Lucas-Perry was again held scoreless, as was Matt Vogrich, although he only played 1 minute compared to LLP’s 26.

Even if Michigan had won this game, it still would have had a tough road ahead to make the NCAA tournament.  Because it lost, though, Michigan’s path to the NCAA tournament essentially has only one route: the Big Ten tournament.  With a record of 10-10, Michigan would have to pull off the run of all runs to even be a bubble team, and it just doesn’t seem like this team has it in them.

Regardless, Michigan will look to get things headed back in a positive direction on Saturday when Iowa comes to Crisler Arena (4:30 p.m. on the BTN).  The Hawkeyes are only one game back of Michigan in the Big Ten and have shown some fight lately, overcoming a big deficit in East Lansing to take MSU to the wire and blowing out Indiana in Bloomington.  Also, last night Iowa led Ohio State up until there were four minutes left in the game, at which point the Buckeyes came back and pulled away to win the game.  Basically what I’m trying to say is that although the Hawkeyes have struggled immensely this season, they do seem to be improving.  Besides, if Michigan has taught us anything this season it’s that although they get up for games against teams like Ohio State, UConn, and Michigan State, they also tend to come out somewhat lackadaisical against the bottom of the Big Ten.  Let’s hope they bring an effort similar to what we saw on Tuesday against Iowa.

Miscellaneous Quick Hits: MSU Changes Logo; Epic Meltdown Ensues

By · Saturday, January 23, 2010 · 2:58 AM |  Share | 1 Comment 
  • In addition to approving the Crisler Arena renovation, the U-M Board of Regents also approved the hiring of Dave Brandon as the new athletic director.
  • Marty Bodnar had left Michigan for a new job in his hometown, but he quickly resigned and is now back in Ann Arbor again working as the associate athletic director of ticketing and marketing.
  • Michigan’s new wrestling facility now has a name: the Bahna Wrestling Center.
  • MVictors interviewed Sam Webb.
  • Michigan State Logos - Old and NewThe Red Cedar Message Board unearthed Michigan State’s trademark application for a new Spartan helmet logo, leading to much speculation and discussion.  A day later Michigan State confirmed that it is getting a new logo, causing the RCMB and essentially MSU’s entire fan base to melt down.  The new logo isn’t exactly all that good looking, and I’d definitely say it is a downgrade over the current one.  To make matters worse, Nike supposedly is behind the new logo, which is merely part of a “new comprehensive brand and graphic identity project.”  One source likened the project to what Nike has done with Oregon, causing the meltdown and backlash over this news to go to a new level.  Facebook groups against the new logo have popped up and have already grown to more than ten thousand members, and chants are already being led (by Sparty, no less) in favor of the current logo.

    To say that Michigan State fans have exploded over this whole situation is an understatement, and I can certainly understand where they’re coming from.  Just imagine the collective meltdown that would happen if adidas tried to change Michigan’s home football jersey or the winged helmet.  There’s no doubt we would melt down, although I don’t know if we could top the meltdown currently going on in Spartan nation.  It truly is on another level than anything I have seen before over a logo.  I mean, when the Lions revealed their new logo last year there was some backlash, but it was very limited and generally fans liked the changes. For MSU, though, it seems like every poll about the logo results in somewhere around 90% of the voters being against the change.

    From a marketing standpoint the change to the Lions’ logo made sense.  The Lions needed to do something to generate added revenue, and you can bet quite a few fans went out and bought merchandise with the new logo on it.  I’m sure many MSU fans will do the same thing, but considering just how strongly opposed most people are to the new logo, I really don’t see the sales boom being that large.  In fact, many fans have commented that they will go out of their way to avoid purchasing anything with the new logo.  I imagine over time people will warm up to the changes, but I still don’t think it will be worth it from a revenue standpoint.  On top of that, I don’t get the thinking behind messing with your brand.  It’s things like this that prevent tradition, just like changing uniforms every few years like Michigan State has seemingly always done.  I’m certainly no marketing major, but this move just doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense to me.

  • The Only Colors’ thoughts on the new logo are certainly interesting, and I have to agree about the point regarding the movie 300.  The first year MSU used all of the tie-ins with 300 was fine, but they have beat it to death since then.  It’s beyond cheesy, yet it seems like the new logo was actually influenced quite a bit by the movie.  Seriously, MSU needs to get over it already.  I know, the movie involved Spartans and gave MSU the chance to use cheesy clips throughout games, but MSU’s athletic department needs to move on and forget about that movie.  Like I said, it’s just cheesy at this point.
  • Personally I like The Wolverine Blog’s idea for MSU’s new logo more than anything else I’ve seen.

Friday Quick Hits: Notre Dame Hires Brian Kelly

By · Friday, December 11, 2009 · 10:33 AM |  Share | 1 Comment 
  • Zoltan Mesko didn’t win the Ray Guy Award (it went to Georgia’s punter instead), but he and Brandon Graham were named to the Walter Camp All-America second-team.
  • Brian Kelly is officially headed to Notre Dame.  I personally think he will succeed there.  It may take some time, but he has won everywhere he has been in the past.
  • Michigan hosts Notre Dame in hockey tonight (7:35 p.m.) and then goes to South Bend to finish the series on Sunday (4:05 p.m.).  Both games will be broadcast on Comcast 900.
  • Some people thought there was going to be a limit of 25 recruits allowed to sign in the 2010 football recruiting class, but that is not true.  The limit is still 28.
  • It has been a long, long time since Michigan’s football, basketball, and hockey teams have all been struggling this much at the same time.
  • At the end of Wednesday’s basketball game, Utah fans chanted “just like football,” referring to the Utes’ season-opening win at Michigan in 2008.
  • Nine Michigan State football players have been charged with at least one count of assault or assault and battery as well as one count of conspiracy to commit an assault and battery.  In addition, Myles White (commit Austin White’s brother) has been charged for allegedly urinating in public and being a minor in possession of alcohol.  The Alamo Bowl should be interesting to watch simply because of how many players have been suspended in the last few weeks.  Depth is definitely going to be a concern for MSU.
  • The Heisman Trophy will be awarded tomorrow, and I personally think it should go to Toby Gerhart. Ndamukong Suh is a close second on my list, with Mark Ingram coming in third.

Michigan Rolls in Basketball, Flops in Hockey

By · Wednesday, November 18, 2009 · 3:06 PM |  Share | Leave a Comment 

I said last week that at least it’s basketball season, and that still rings true this week.  The football team lost another game and the hockey team was swept by Michigan State, but the basketball team beat Northern Michigan 97-50.  Yes, it’s Northern Michigan, but based on the score alone you can see how well the team played on Saturday.

Michigan’s best player against NMU was its best player in general — Manny Harris.  Manny recorded only the second triple-double in Michigan history, scoring 18 points, grabbing 13 rebounds, and dishing out 10 assists.  Better yet, he did all of that in only 29 minutes.  I’m guessing this won’t be the only triple-double for him this season.

DeShawn Sims was Michigan’s leading scorer with 22 points.  He also grabbed 10 rebounds to record a double-double.  The next-highest scorer after Sims and Harris was Matt Vogrich, who scored 15 points on 5 three-pointers.  All 5 shots he took during this game were from behind the arc, and he didn’t miss a single one of them.  Also scoring in double digits were Darius Morris and Zack Gibson, who both had 11 points.

Michigan’s next game is on Friday when Houston Baptist comes to Crisler Arena.  The game starts at 7 p.m. and will be shown on BigTenNetwork.com.

Unlike this past weekend, I really hope more than one major sports team gets a win for Michigan this week.  As I said, the football team lost to Wisconsin and the hockey team was swept by Michigan State.  As bad as the Wisconsin game turned out to be in football, I think I was more frustrated with the hockey team.  It lost 3-1 at Yost on Friday and then lost 2-0 on Saturday in East Lansing.  Plain and simple, this is not a very good team right now.

The three biggest problems I’ve noticed with the hockey team are penalties, turnovers in their own zone, and an extremely lackluster power play.  Against MSU on Friday, at least, all of those things were big issues, and Michigan is now below .500 on the season because of them.  Between the stupid penalties, turnover after turnover in front of Bryan Hogan, and doing nothing on the power play, it was tough to stomach the game on Friday.  I didn’t even watch the game on Saturday, but based on the highlights, it was more of the same.  Michigan State’s second goal was the direct result of a turnover in front of Hogan, and it was something you just have to shake your head at.

Michigan hosts Bowling Green on Friday and plays them in Toledo on Saturday.  The Wolverines need a sweep to get the season turned around, because with the way it’s going right now, it doesn’t look like we will see Michigan anywhere near the top of the CCHA standings anytime soon.

Thursday Quick Hits: Michigan Signs Two Basketball Recruits

By · Thursday, November 12, 2009 · 6:42 PM |  Share | 5 Comments 
  • Tim Hardaway Jr. and Evan Smotrycz signed their letters of intent yesterday, officially becoming members of the 2010 recruiting class.
  • It seems like if Carlos Brown is injured then Brandon Minor is healthy and vice versa, and that appears to be the case again this week.  While Carlos Brown is expected to be completely healthy for Saturday’s game, Brandon Minor is still day-to-day with a bruised shoulder.  How much the injury will limit him, if at all, against Wisconsin is left to be seen.  A one-two punch of Brown and Minor would be ideal, but with the way the injury situation has been this year, it doesn’t exactly seem all that likely that it will be present against Wisconsin.
  • Martavious Odoms has returned to practice.
  • Patrick Omameh is the permanent starter at right guard.  There is no permanent starter at middle linebacker just yet, because coaches aren’t sure if Kevin Leach or Obi Ezeh should start.
  • David Molk’s surgery was scheduled to happen today.
  • Brandon Graham has a shot at climbing up Michigan’s all-time list for sacks and tackles for a loss.
  • Michigan is currently leading the nation in attendance.
  • Although going into tomorrow’s Michigan-Michigan State hockey game the coaches are saying that memories of the last meeting between the two teams won’t affect play, it’s kind of hard to forget the image of Steve Kampfer face down on the ice after Corey Tropp and Andrew Conboy attacked him.  Perhaps members of the team will do their best to not let it take their focus off of winning the game, but I can tell you right now that the crowd will let Tropp have it all night long.  Anytime MSU comes to Yost the atmosphere is taken to a new level, but as I said earlier this week, tomorrow night may be the most hostile crowd ever, and that’s saying something.  An e-mail from the hockey team was sent out to students basically as a warning to watch what you say, as ejections could happen without warning.  Personally, I am going to try my best to avoid doing something to get ejected, but if another incident happens like in the last game between Michigan and Michigan State, all bets are off.

Michigan Pulls Off Amazing Comeback But Loses to MSU in Overtime

By · Sunday, October 4, 2009 · 11:58 PM |  Share | Leave a Comment 

LarryCaperTDIf you had told me that Michigan would hold Michigan State to 20 points through four quarters, win the turnover battle, and have 79 less penalty yards than the Spartans, I would have figured that the Wolverines won quite comfortably.  At the same time, if you had told me that Michigan State would have nearly 400 yards compared to Michigan’s 66 (including negative rushing yards) with five minutes left in the fourth quarter, I would have assumed that the Spartans won in blowout fashion.

In reality, neither of those scenarios actually happened, as Michigan, despite being flat out dominated for the first 55 minutes of the game, scored a pair of touchdowns in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter to force overtime.  The offense finally started to play well and Tate Forcier led Michigan down the field twice for 14 straight points to tie the game.  The final touchdown was scored with only 2 seconds left on the clock, and as overtime was set to begin, it looked like a familiar story was playing out. 

Michigan State, like we have seen a few times before in this rivalry, blew a lead at the end of a game, and Michigan had a chance to win in overtime.  Unlike the past, though, the ending to this story was different.  The “Same Ol’ Sparty” magic finally ran out in overtime.  Tate Forcier was picked off to end Michigan’s possession, and even though MSU appeared to be simply setting up a field goal, Larry Caper broke a couple tackles and charged into the end zone to win the game.  The 26-20 victory means that Michigan has now lost to Michigan State in back-to-back years for the first time since the 60s.

I don’t know what was more disappointing: The fact that Michigan came back only to lose in overtime, or the fact that despite how poorly they played for the first 55 minutes of the game, changing only one play could have resulted in Michigan winning in regulation.  In that sense this was one of the weirdest games I’ve witnessed in a long time.  Michigan State was beyond dominant for most of this game, yet somehow they let Michigan hang around and make a comeback to force overtime.  In the end, though, U-M and MSU reversed their typical roles in this situation, as the Wolverines committed the costly mistake and the Spartans made a big play to win the game.

1st Quarter

  • Michigan’s first blown opportunity came at the very start of the game after Stevie Brown picked off Kirk Cousins’ first pass.  Cousins was pressured on 3rd and 6, and Ryan Van Bergen hit his arm right as the ball was thrown.  That caused it to come out short, allowing Brown to make the interception.  He returned it to the MSU 14, but had he not cut back to the right, he may have been able to take it to the house.
  • The reason this ended up being a blown opportunity for Michigan was because the offense quickly went three and out.  Carlos Brown lost a yard on first down, and Tate Forcier was sacked for a loss of 4 more on second down.  Forcier had Brown open out of the backfield on third down, but Brown didn’t turn around in time to make the catch.  If the pass had been completed, Brown would have only had to make a couple defenders miss to reach the end zone.  That was a big if since the pass wasn’t completed, meaning Michigan to settle for a 36-yard Jason Olesnavage field goal.
  • Instead of Michigan setting the tone for this game with the interception, Michigan State had momentum from its defense and turned that into a statement drive.  The Spartans slowly but surely moved their way down the field, not even facing a single third down until they were in Michigan territory.  That’s not even the most surprising thing about this drive, though.  Despite racking up 50 — yes, 50 — penalty yards on this drive, Michigan State had little trouble getting it all back.  One big play would be taken away by a personal foul, and the Spartans would come right back with another big play.  Michigan simply couldn’t stop MSU from moving the ball through the air, allowing the Spartans to control the clock and the game in general.  Eventually Kirk Cousins scrambled for a gain of 7 yards to make it 4th and goal at the 1, and that is when Larry Caper pounded the ball into the end zone for a touchdown, capping off a 17-play drive that lasted for 10 minutes and 2 seconds.
  • It seemed like it had been forever since Michigan’s offense saw the field, and they needed to put together a decent drive simply to give the defense time to rest.  Unfortunately it was more of the same from them, as they went three and out and only had the ball for 59 seconds.  Zoltan Mesko did have a 56-yard punt to pin the Spartans back at their own 11, but that was about the only positive thing that happened during Michigan’s possession.

2nd Quarter

  • Michigan State converted a pair of third downs and moved into Michigan territory before the defense finally came up with a stop.  Safety Jordan Kovacs put a huge hit on Larry Caper, forcing a fumble and a loss of 6 yards on the play.  That helped Michigan force MSU to punt the ball away after moving it 42 yards.  The drive still lasted for 11 plays and took 6:31 off the clock, though.  As a result, the time of possession was beyond lopsided, and Michigan was in serious danger of barely having the ball in the entire first half if the offense didn’t wake up.
  • After a pass break-up and a drop by Kelvin Grady, it looked like Michigan was headed for another three and out.  That was especially true when Tate Forcier couldn’t find anyone open and scrambled on third down.  He desperately heaved the ball downfield for Kevin Koger, who came back for it and made the catch despite having two Spartans around him.  The pass went for a gain of 41 yards, moving the chains and getting the offense going.  Forcier moved the chains again shortly after on 3rd and 9 by scrambling for a first down, and then he later found Martavious Odoms for a gain of 4 on 3rd and 2.  Michigan continued to move the ball up until Forcier was sacked by Eric Gordon on 3rd and 3.  He got rid of the ball but was called for intentional grounding, resulting in a loss of 14 on the play.  Jason Olesnavage connected on a 42-yard field goal, making this a 1-point game.
  • Glenn Winston returned the proceeding kickoff to MSU’s 45-yard line, putting the Spartans in position to add to their lead before halftime.  Michigan State, like usual, slowly but surely moved down the field, and this time the defense came up with a stop when Stevie Brown took down Winston for a loss on 3rd and 1.  Michigan State ran the clock down and kicked a 26-yard field goal as time expired to take a 10-6 lead at halftime.

3rd Quarter

  • Michigan had a chance to open the second half with a big drive and even possibly take the lead, but they reverted back to how they played at the start of the game, going three and out.  Tate Forcier was sacked, and Carlos Brown then lost a yard.  After an incompletion on third down, Zoltan Mesko punted the ball away to the 50-yard line.
  • Similar to what happened a couple plays earlier in the game, Michigan lost contain on Kirk Cousins.  On 3rd and 8 they were unable to get much pressure on him, allowing him to take off and run for a first down.  Keith Nichol then came into the game and hit Keshawn Martin for 9 yards, moving the Spartans down to Michigan’s 27-yard line.  Glenn Winston moved the chains with a gain of 6, but that was followed up with an incompletion and no gain by Larry Caper.  Kirk Cousins was under pressure on 3rd and 10, and Craig Roh nailed him just as he threw the ball.  That led to it being way off target, allowing Donovan Warren to make the interception despite Troy Woolfolk running into him.  Warren went down at the 7-yard line and prevented MSU from increasing its lead.
  • Michigan finally was able to run the ball for a positive gain, as Carlos Brown picked up 7 and 2 yards, setting up 3rd and 1.  Instead of going into the I-formation and/or simply handing the ball off to Brandon Minor, Tate Forcier ran a draw play and was stuffed for little to no gain.  The spot wasn’t great, and a measurement revealed that Michigan was literally a few inches away from the first down.  Some players seemed to want to go for it, but the punt team was sent in after a slight hesitation.  Michigan came out in a slightly different punt formation, with three gunners to the right.  Michigan State seemed to know something was up, as they came out in a safe look.  That proved to be a smart move, as Zoltan Mesko took the snap and ran to the left.  There he was tackled by multiple MSU defenders and dropped for a loss of 3 yards, giving the Spartans the ball at Michigan’s 13-yard line.

    After the game Rich Rodriguez said that Zoltan Mesko made the decision to run the ball, but something is just fishy about this whole play.  Like I said, Michigan lined up in a different formation than they usually do, as three gunners were on the right side.  I’ve seen Michigan use this formation in previous games, but it is not their usual one.  The second weird thing was that Michigan State came out in a safe return formation, almost knowing that something was up.  I know Rodriguez said it was Mesko who made the read and the decision to run, but the three blockers in front of Mesko ran to the left, knowing that he was going to roll out that way.  What’s odd about this is that Michigan hasn’t had Mesko roll out this season like he did last year due to a rules change that makes punters fair game in that situation.  The blockers usually just wait to make a block, but this time they moved to the left.

    Someone made the decision to run the rugby type of punt, which gives Mesko the option to run.  Given the situation, Mesko should have been explicitly told to punt the ball and not even think about running.  If Michigan wanted to go for it, a QB sneak probably would have moved the chains.  Running a fake punt that deep in your own territory when you only need a few inches is just incredibly stupid, and it is probably one of the worst play calls/decisions I’ve ever seen.

  • With its back against the wall, Michigan’s defense came up with a huge stop.  Glenn Winston ran the ball for gains of 6 and 3 yards, making it 3rd and 1 at the 4.  That is when Brandon Graham delivered a ferocious hit on Winston for a loss of a yard.  Winston was slow to get up, which is understandable considering how big of a hit it was.  Michigan State had to settle for a 24-yard field goal, putting them up 13-6.
  • Michigan technically didn’t go three and out again on its next drive, but that’s exactly what happened after Tate Forcier moved the chains on a pass to Martavious Odoms.  Brandon Minor ran for 3 yards, and then Tate Forcier was dropped for a loss of 5.  He found Junior Hemingway for a gain of 11, making it 4th and 1, but Michigan punted the ball away this time.
  • Keith Nichol came in at quarterback for Michigan State and moved the Spartans into Michigan territory as the third quarter came to a close.

4th Quarter

  • After an incompletion, Glenn Winston took the ball on a toss and ran down the right sideline 15 yards for a Michigan State touchdown.  It was pretty obvious that Winston was going to get the ball on a toss, as Michigan State lined up with three receivers to the left side.  That formation had been used before to run this play, as the quarterback would fake a bubble screen pass and pitch it to the other side.  That is exactly what happened on this play, and Winston ran into the end zone to make this a 20-6 game.
  • Hoping to give the offense a spark, Denard Robinson came into the game at quarterback.  The first play he ran was a reverse to Martavious Odoms, who appeared to have a lane but made a bad read and ended up losing 4 yards.  Robinson then ran for a loss of 2, and on third down he was sacked for a loss of 12.
  • Michigan State took over with good field position, but Brandon Graham made a huge play on 3rd and 11.  Kirk Cousins was scrambling to avoid pressure, and Graham caught him from behind and forced a fumble.  The ball bounced around and Obi Ezeh eventually recovered it, giving Michigan the ball at MSU’s 46-yard line.
  • Michigan immediately made a move after the turnover, as Tate Forcier found Junior Hemingway for a gain of 9 yards.  Michigan State was penalized for a late hit on the play, even though Hemingway wasn’t completely down when he took the hit.  Regardless, the penalty moved Michigan all the way down to the 22-yard line.  On the very next play Forcier found Darryl Stonum for a gain of 10.  Stonum tried to fight for extra yardage and had the ball knocked out of his hands by Eric Gordon.  Greg Jones picked it up and returned it to the MSU 27.
  • Michigan State went three and out after a couple short runs and an incompletion, but Michigan followed suit with three straight incomplete passes on its next drive.
  • Michigan’s defense once again forgot to contain the quarterback two plays into the Spartans’ next drive.  Kirk Cousins took off for a gain of 41 yards, putting MSU on Michigan’s 38-yard line.  Glenn Winston then ran for 1 yard on back-to-back carries, and on third down Cousins found B.J. Cunningham for 5 yards, making it 4th and 3.  Michigan caught a break here, as MSU decided to go for it on fourth down.  A field goal would have made it a three-possession game, but MSU was going into the wind and it was raining on and off, making the field wet.  Even so, during halftime Brett Swenson appeared to make one kick from around 50 yards at that end, and this attempt would have been from around 48.  Regardless, MSU went for it and Kirk Cousins’ pass to Keshawn Martin sailed over his head and was incomplete.
  • Michigan took over with 4:47 left in the game and had to start making something happen.  Tate Forcier did just that on first down, scrambling away from pressure and somehow finding Junior Hemingway, who made an outstanding catch in heavy coverage, for a gain of 8 yards.  Following an incompletion on second down, Forcier hit a wide open Darryl Stonum on the left sideline on 3rd and 2.  Stonum had a big cushion between him and the MSU player defending him, and he switched field and started running to the right.  His speed allowed him to outrun the defenders chasing after him, and he ran into the end zone for a 60-yard touchdown.  Just like that Michigan cut the lead down to one touchdown.
  • Keith Nichol found Mark Dell for a gain of 7, and Larry Caper ran for a yard on second down.  That set up a critical 3rd and 2 that could have ended Michigan’s hopes of a comeback if MSU converted it.  Thanks to Jordan Kovacs, that didn’t happen.  Kovacs was in the backfield as soon as Caper got the ball and delivered a big hit, knocking him down for a loss of a yard.  Greg Mathews caught Michigan State’s punt and went out of bounds at his own 8-yard line, meaning Michigan had 2:53 to go 92 yards to send this game to overtime.
  • Tate Forcier showed how clutch he can be under pressure by methodically picking apart Michigan State’s defense on this drive both through the air and on the ground.  A roughing the passer penalty also helped Michigan out early in this drive, moving the Wolverines closer to midfield.  Forcier continued to pick apart the defense, finding Martavious Odoms for 9 yards and then running for 13 more.  He hooked up with Stonum again for a gain of 12, moving the ball down to the MSU 24.  Back-to-back incomplete passes thrown in Greg Mathews’ direction (including one that went over a wide open Mathews in the end zone) made it 3rd and 10, and Forcier escaped pressure and ran for 13 to move the chains.

    The rain was already falling, but the intensity of it picked up, making for the worst weather we had seen all day at the worst possible time.  To make matters even worse, Forcier was gassed, but he played through it and scrambled for a gain of 2 yards on the next play.  He fumbled the ball out of bounds at the end of the run, stopping the clock.  On the following play he dropped the snap and proceeded to throw a dangerous pass into coverage.  It fell to the ground for an incompletion, making it 3rd and goal with 8 seconds left.  On the most important play of the game, Forcier took the snap, rolled to the right, and found an open Roy Roundtree in the back of the end zone for a touchdown with only 2 seconds left on the clock.  Jason Olesnavage made the extra point, tying the game up at 20.  Michigan State took a knee to run the final couple of seconds off the clock to send the game to overtime.

Overtime

  • Tate Forcier got overtime started by running for a gain of 5 yards.  He then found Martavious Odoms for a gain of 7 to move the chains.  After rushing for 4 yards on first down, Brandon Minor got a carry and went for 1, making it 3rd and 5.  Forcier rolled to the right and forced a pass into heavy coverage in the end zone, and the ball was deflected and eventually ended up in the hands of a diving Chris L. Rucker for an interception.  You just can’t make throws like that in this situation, but Forcier was trying to make a play and paid for it.
  • Just needing a field goal to win the game, Michigan State did its best to prevent that from happening when Glenn Winston fumbled a pitch, resulting in a loss of 9 yards.  It was the same play he scored a touchdown on earlier in the game, but this time the pitch from Keith Nichol went through his hands.  Nichol got that yardage back on the next play by hitting B.J. Cunningham for a gain of 9 yards, making it 3rd and 8.  In this situation I expected MSU to just run the ball to set up a game-winning field goal attempt, and that is exactly what they did.  There would be no field goal, though, as Larry Caper took the handoff, plowed over Troy Woolfolk, ran by Jonas Mouton, and found the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown run.  Michigan State won 26-20, saved its season, and made sure that the Paul Bunyan Trophy won’t leave East Lansing for at least another year.

There’s not much else to say about this game that hasn’t already been discussed.  All I will add is that this was a wake-up call for the entire team.  Yes, Michigan could have won this game and played amazing in the final five minutes to send it to overtime, but there are visible problems on both sides of the ball.

Although the defense played much better in the second half, it has some huge issues.  Outside of the defensive line, Donovan Warren, Stevie Brown, and Craig Roh, I don’t have much faith in the other defensive players.  Some of the linebackers looked awful both in tackling and their pursuit angles, and don’t even get me started on the secondary.  Part of it is a lack of talent and trying to compensate for that, but the coaches really need to get it together, because it is obvious after Saturday that Michigan is going to struggle to win shootouts against good defenses. 

Michigan’s offense was basically completely ineffective until the final five minutes of the game when Michigan State sort of shifted to a prevent defense.  The run game was useless, and Forcier was under pressure on almost every play.  It is evident that losing David Molk was a bigger blow to the offensive line than most anticipated, as David Moosman is still having snapping issues and the position changes have made the right side of the line extremely sketchy.

Michigan will have a week to iron out these problems, as it will take a complete team effort to win at Iowa next Saturday, especially since it is a night game (8 p.m. start on ABC).  Though the Hawkeyes have shown they are beatable by playing down to their opponents, they will be pumped up for a primetime game against Michigan. 

What scares me the most about the Iowa game is that Michigan State really does not have a good defense.  Iowa does, and when you consider how much Michigan struggled against MSU, what does that mean for next Saturday?  Iowa’s offense isn’t explosive, but it gets the job done.  To win this game, Michigan is going to have to play strong defensively, figure out how to run the ball again, and hope that Tate Forcier makes plays all game like he did on those final two drives of the fourth quarter this past Saturday.  It won’t be easy, but Michigan needs to forget about the disappointing game in East Lansing and get ready to rebound and win at Iowa.

Game #5 – Michigan (4-0) at Michigan State (1-3)

By · Saturday, October 3, 2009 · 3:49 AM |  Share | 2 Comments 
MICHIGAN (4-0) GAME #5 MICHIGAN STATE (1-3)
Michigan AT Michigan State
Date: October 3, 2009 Location: East Lansing, MI
Time: 12:00 p.m. ET Stadium: Spartan Stadium
TV: Big Ten Network Line: -3.5; 54.0 O/U
Radio: Click Here Weather: Click Here

Michigan-MSU Game: Noon Start on Big Ten Network

By · Monday, September 21, 2009 · 12:40 PM |  Share | Leave a Comment 

I remember a couple years ago there was a big concern that the Big Ten Network would somehow end up getting to broadcast the Michigan-Michigan State game, which would have posed a big problem for many people since much of the state didn’t have access to the channel yet.  All the worrying turned out to be for naught, as the game ended up on ABC, which is usually the case for this rivalry.  Most games have gotten a regional ABC spot or one of ESPN’s national spots, but that is coming to an end this season.

This year’s game (on October 3) will be a noon kickoff on the Big Ten Network.  It’s not a big deal anymore since the BTN is now available to basically everyone in the state, but it is interesting that this happened.  Usually a rivalry game like this ends up on ABC or ESPN simply because it is a rivalry game.  Look at last year.  Michigan was 2-5 going into the game, yet it was still broadcast on ABC.  I guess now that Michigan State has dropped back-to-back games the BTN was a bit more likely to pick it up, but considering Michigan could be 4-0 going into the game, it’s a little surprising.

This is the first time the annual rivalry game will start at noon since 2005.  Lately it has been typical for this game to be played at 3:30, but every few years it is a noon start.

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