On a cool, breezy Halloween, the Spartans have given Michigan a game that will haunt them for weeks, months and years to come. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines 27-24, snapping a 2 game losing streak in the rivalry.
Coming into the game off of a loss to Rutgers, the Spartans completely retooled and rejuvenated their squad. Rocky Lombardi went 17-32 passing for 323 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also provided the crucial game sealing first down run to win it. Freshman Ricky White, after having a meager 1 catch for 5 yards last week, torched the Michigan secondary with 8 catches for 196 yards, including a beautiful 30 yard grab to get the Spartans on the board first. Michigan State only finished with 126 yards rushing compared to the Wolverines 152, making this just the 6th time in 50 years that the winner of this rivalry game had fewer rushing yards. Connor Heyward had just 2 catches from his running back position, but both were touchdowns, the latter being the winner with 5:11 remaining. On defense, SR linebacker Antjuan Simmons was flying around the field, coming up with countless tackles, as well as effecting a whole host of other Michigan plays with his positioning.
On the flip side, Michigan struggled in every facet of the game for the whole 60 minutes. Joe Milton finished 32/51 passing for 300 yards. While these numbers were pretty solid, Milton really struggled with his decision making. There were a myriad of throws nearly intercepted when he tried to force the ball, either into double coverage or just by trying to throw over the linebackers. Roman Wilson finished with 5 catches for 71 yards, while Giles Jackson had 7 catches for 58 yards.
The Michigan running game was also struggling all day. Milton, the Quarterback, led the team with 12 carries for 59 yards. Blake Corum flashed his speed on his 2 touchdowns, but he only had 5 carries for 15 yards in total. This allowed Michigan State to constantly sit back in zone coverage and defend Michigan’s speedy wide receivers.
Finally, Michigan’s defense. They really struggled. They did not look like like the defense of the past 3 years. Vincent Gray and Gemon Green were constantly burned in coverage, giving up either big plays or penalties. Their constant failure to stop outside receivers meant that defensive coordinator Don Brown was forced to move his safeties and linebackers back. This allowed MSU to run the ball later in the game, eventually getting the victory because of it.
Michigan State was the by far the less penalized team in the contest, finishing with 5 for 65 yards. On the flip side, Michigan seemed to make the same mistakes over and over again. Gray and Green we’re responsible for numerous holding and pass interference penalties, and the defensive line jumped offside a few times. There were a few questionable calls and non-calls on some plays for both teams.
The officials seemed to be behind the curve throughout the game. There were multiple plays on the drive that led to Michigan State’s winning score that were really poorly officiated. Facing 3rd and 3 at their own 15 yard line, Rocky Lombardi completed a pass to Jalen Nailor. On review, however, the ball appears to have hit the ground out of the receivers control, meaning it should be incomplete and 4th down for the Spartans. The officials failed to even instigate a review from the booth. Later in the drive, Lombardi’s pass to Ricky White also seemed questionable as to its completion, but again it was not reviewed.
Although some officiating calls didn’t go Michigan’s way, that is absolutely no excuse for the final result. They constantly shot themselves in the foot with penalties, lapses in coverage, and time management abilities late in the game. This is a game the #13 Wolverines will look back on with dismay. For the Spartans, the week could not have been any more of a positive turnaround from last week’s fiasco against Rutgers. They had zero turnovers, ran the ball decently, protected the quarterback, and ultimately capped it off with a scrappy win on the road against their ranked in state rival. All in all, a great first win for the program under new head coach Mel Tucker.
Michigan: Nov. 7 @ 17. Indiana
Michigan State: Nov. 7 @ Iowa