The improved Indiana defense is not at the top of the Big Ten, but good enough to give the Wolverines a battle. Some wonder why a program that recruits basically two and three star players can compete with four and five star players. There may be several answers to that question.
The Wolverines have not made a habit of losing to the Hoosiers, having strung together 22 wins over the Bloomington denizens. They have not been easy wins as they often have been very close.
FORMER M COACHES MENTOR THE HOOSIERS: Mike Debord was the OC of Michigan’s 1997 Rose Bowl, and National Champions. Recently at Tennessee, he fostered a prolific offense. I had the good fortune to be acquainted with Mike while he was with the Wolverines. He was friendly, professional, and pleasant.
He is somewhat reviled as a coordinator by some M fans, who did not appreciate the style of offensive play. Now he advises a more wide-open style of offense. I don’t think he will ever be back in Ann Arbor, but other than in this game, I wish him all possible success.
Mike Hart of Little Bro fame/infamy is the Hoosier running backs coach. In contrast to Mike DeBord’s situation, there are fans that would like to see him in Ann Arbor again as the running backs coach. He did know how to hang on to the football, and as a freshman he became only the third freshman M RB to lead the Big Ten in rushing.
Nick Sheridan was here in the Rich Rodriquez for a short time as a quarterback. He is the QB Coach at Indiana now.
The only games I want to see the above coaches lose are those against the Wolverines. At times late Saturday I was afraid they might be happy post game.
SOME HIGHLIGHTS: The Wolverines lost the coin toss, and defended, receiving the second half kick off. The defense held for a good start.
The Wolverines had an impressive 6 minute drive on their first series. Unfortunately, it was not a point a minute drive as its stalled, and culminated in a 40-yard Quinn Nordin FG. Quinn is money in the bank, but again the Wolverines only got half of what they wanted for the drive. M was up 3-0.
On the next Indiana possession Hurst blocked a field goal and LaVert Hill secured it and hauled it 35-yards. Again the drive stalled, and again Nordin hit a field goal, this time from 38. More money in the bank, but again the Wolverines only got half of what they wanted. It was 6-0.
On their next possession O’Korn pulled out his Houdini bag of tricks and got himself free from the scrum, and hit Donovan Peoples-Jones for 17-yards for a much needed first down to prolong the drive. The Wolverines benefited from DPJ taking a late hit resulting in an unsportsmanlike conduct call. Review killed the targeting call, but the 15-yards unsportsmanlike penalty endured. Karan Higdon showed some magic, and streaked 12-yards for the score. 13-0.
Indiana managed a late field goal near the half to finalize the half time score at 13 to 3.
The Hoosiers took the ball to start the second half, and took it to the Wolverines. The defense allowed the Hoosiers first score in the second half on a run by Hoosier John Ellison, but neither side added any additional score in what remained of the third quarter. For the rest of the quarter the defenses prevailed, as both teams settled for three and outs. The score remained 13-10.
The Wolverines running game broke out in the fourth quarter as Karan Higdon, and the other backs went to work. Higdon’s 59-yard streak to and over the goal line energized the Wolverines and their fans. The Wolverines appeared to be in charge and headed to a certain win, as they were up 20-10.
But as the clock ticked to 3:27, a cloud appeared on M’s football horizon,. Indiana QB Peyton Ramsey threw a TD pass to Whop Phiylor. It was a whopper, reducing M’s lead to a fragile 3 points, 20-17. Thoughts of a tie or worse began to fester.
The concern was enhanced by what seeming to be a successful Indiana onside kick which bounced over the head of M’s Donovan People-Jones. He leaped and hit it with his hand, knocking it into the hands of Indiana’s Simmie Cobb, Jr.
Cobb tight roped down the sideline attempting to gain control of the ball and stay in bounds. A review gave Michigan the football. It was ruled that he did not gain control of the football until out of bounds.
The Wolverine offense was not up to the task of icing the game in regulation, as they went three and out. The defense sputtered a little and could not protect the M lead. A 46-yard Hoosier field goal tied it 20-20, and it was on to overtime.
OVERTIME: The Hoosiers won the toss and forced the Wolverines to go first. Higdon ran the ball 25-yards into the end zone for what became the winning score.
Then the Wolverine’s defense made their magnificent goal line stand by withstanding a Hoosier first and ten at the two. That terrific stand was described earlier. Final M-27, I-20.
TAKE AWAY: This Wolverine team has plenty of fight. They can give and take hard knocks, win away from home, and can play defense with the best of them. The weakest link in their chain right now is passing offense. Usually balanced between run and throw, they netted just 58-yards passing. This time the game was in perfect passing weather. Even without errors, that low production passing game will hinder winning. At the very least they need to maintain balance.
At the first of the year, I thought the receivers were one of the better position groups, but it seems that the much maligned running backs are producing than they are now.
The offensive line is still leaky in pass protection, but they were outstanding at times in the run game today.
It seems John O’Korn, and the OL, and the receivers, all need to do better in the passing game in the search for a balanced attack.
John needs to connect down field a time or two to gain confidence, and move defenders back. He overthrew a long ball to a wide open Donovan Peoples-Jones during the first drive, and another to Grant Perry. It seemed to me that throw to Perry had to be high to miss the defender. It was still a miss even if it was just off the fingertips of Perry. There is always room for improvement.
Bring on prime time and Penn State. This one is going to be interesting.
The always pugnacious legions of Michigan State Spartans Football, and their dedicated fans marched confidently into Michigan Stadium Saturday, bent on destruction of the seventh ranked Wolverine’s heretofore unbeaten season.
The turning point in the game occurred early, after Ty Isaac had produced a nice gain that was negated.
The ball was stripped and recovered by the Spartans. At that point Michigan momnentum went whoosh. Later, M’s WR Kekoa Crawford caught a 55-yard pass and broke the plane for a TD, but it was called back due to a stupid penalty. Later, M’s Tight End Sean McKeon caught a 36-yard pass and had it knocked out and recovered by the Spartans. Thus the game went as the errors piled up.
Before any of this the Wolverines had scored first. They hit a field goal after an impressive opening drive that culminated in a red zone stall. That was their only lead of the game. A pair of fade passes into the end zone were off target and fell incomplete, so M was forced to convert a thirty yard field goal. They keep going to red zone fades that. when missed, help facilitate their red zone woes.
The Spartan locomotive gained momentum after the fumble, and it was never really relinquished. As a thunder storm was expected in the middle third to fourth quarter, the Wolverines seemed on the sharp edge of defeat.
The story of this game is encapsulated in the fact that the Wolverines made errors and the Spartans made plays. The Spartans had all the points they needed for a win at the end of the first half.
Fresh off a 14-10 beat down of the Iowa Hawkeyes for their first Big Ten victory this season, the Spartans sported enhanced confidence. The Spartans always reek of aggressiveness, and cocky self-assurance, but the off season shennigans of some of their players, and the dismissal of a few of them, had engendered unusual quietude among the Spartan Nation this season to date. That is at an end now. And for cause. The Spartans came to play, seemed better schooled in the game’s necessity, and earned a tough win. Unlike their last win in Michigan Stadium, this one was not the result of luck or a bad call.
THE AGRESSIVE SPARTANS OFTEN LIKE TO FEEL PUT UPON BY THE WOLVERINES: The bulging muscles of their mascot, Sparty, and the rakish hats and demeanor of their large band, perfectly describes their preferred milieu. They recruit aggressiveness, and it is part and parcel of their team and fandom’s schtick.
They seem to do their utmost to maintain a perennial chip towards the Wolverines on their shoulder, always looking for an uttered action or statement of disrespect, that they can grasp to provide ammunition to pummel the hated Wolverines into a deeper respect for what they consider to be the superior qualities of Spartandom. There seems to be a functioning tendency toward a desire to paint the Wolverines as arrogant equine related creatures.
Part of this may come from Michigan attempting to deny them membership in the Big Ten in 1953, and, before that in 1946, when they pasted MSC 55-0. The memory of that loss had an East Lansing half-life that would have daunted Marie Curie. It lasted, and lasted, and motivated a trend that continues today.
Another part may stem from the Wolverine’s prominent place in football history, and the big shadow M casts as an academic institution. Also, a little trash talk got to them. They were incensed when former Wolverine Tail Back Mike Hart referred to their program as “a little brother”. That remark caused a tornado of response from the Spartans, and a situation unheard of, (in my experience), where a Head Coach got into an off-field trash talking contest with an opposing player.
SPARTAN RESURGENCE: In the last decade there has been a genuine resurgence of Spartan Football prominence under Spartan Head Football Coach Mark D’Antonio. Michigan’s forty-year football dominance evaporated under Brady and Rich Rod, and the Spartans slid upwards. Saturday. on the offensive side of the ball, it seemed that those eras had returned to the stadium.
A RIVALRY EXISTS: For much of recent history the Spartans have been a tough out for the Wolverines. They have now won 8 of 10 last outings against the Wolverines. MSU has won the Big Ten Championship, and battled in the final game of the National Championship Play Offs. That the Wolverines have not yet managed those feats is still a sore point for the Wolverines, and fans.
The Wolverines have sometimes been tripped up by bad luck in this series, as in the punter dropped punt attempt two years ago, and enduring an actual Spartan trip in the end zone of Desmond Howard, along with a bad call, as he tried to nab a game winning two-point catch late in a game. Sparty slappies mismanaged the clock at the end of the game to win another in the infamous clock-gate incident. Anything can be expected in this annual rivalry battle, and not all of it good for the Wolverines. That bad luck was not the cause of Saturday’s loss.
Most of the time, the key feature of the game has been the hard hitting, gritty nature of the play on both sides, as the winning team was usually the one earning the most rushing yardage. This maxim has not always applied the past several years, but was applicable this year as the Spartans protected the ball. They outrushed the Wolverines, gathering 158-yards on 40 attempts. M was held to 102-yards on 39 attempts.
The Spartans were 11/22 passing for 94-yards and a TD. While the Wolverines were 16/35 for 198-yards. The Spartans had a key fifty-yard strike on a beautiful catch of a ball batted by the receiver to himself.
Defensively Mo Hurst led the Michigan pack. He had six tackles and two assists for a total of 8. They held MSU to 2 of 14 third down attempts.
The offense simply did not play well. Unfortunately, that turned out to be the story of the game for the Wolverines. MSU played in the same rain, but the Wolverines forced no TOs. Both offenses struggled at times, especially in the rainy second half, but the Spartans did better than the Wolverines.
The offense was guilty of 5 sacks of and 4 TFLS. The offense still looks befuddled at times, and not very tough. The backs don’t block effectively consistently, couldn’t hang onto the ball, and the OL does not look tough and sharp, still making myriad small mistakes. O’Korn showed good ability to escape, and he really needed to use it too often. Three second half interceptions, rain or no rain, melded with two fumbles lost, result in losses losses every time.
Wilton Speight will not be back this year. WOTS has long held he had an injury to three vertebra. Reliable sources confirmed that Saturday. So for this season, for better or for worse O’Korn is the man, with Brandon Peters on deck.
In a pregame interview, M’s great defensive lineman Mo Hurst indicated that he was not aware of the rivalry, before enrollment, but that he became aware in the first game he played. He said he saw a new level of intensity when he was double teamed and hit under the jaw.
The Green Meanies have played some good football under D’Antonio, and the Wolverines have some scars on their record to prove it. This edition of the Spartans proved their mettle again.
Last season the Spartans were thoroughly whipped by the Wolverines in their down season. They had three wins and nine losses, and had an off season of player scandals. This season it appears that the Spartans have regrouped. They have already improved their number of wins, having already exceeded last year’s win total.
The Spartans have often played their best against the Wolverines, and they did again Saturday night. While neither team looked great, the Spartans collared a Big Ten win in hostile territory.
THE GAME STAKES: Besides football dominance in the State of Michigan, and in addition to football records, there is a more personal aspect to this game. This game is a contest that involves strong loyalties between members of immediate families, co-workers, and acquaintances. There are therefore often daily reminders of a loss, and sometimes a rearrangement of the facts to suit the trash talker. There is a large degree of personal pride involved for many fans on both sides, who want to rub the nose of the loser in it.
As much as we abhor Ohio State University, one does not see their fans every day if you stay off High Street, but living in central Michigan, there are Spartans all over the landscape.
A certain number are vocal win, lose, or draw, but most turn up the volume after a win. The Wolverine’s coaches usually deny this is a special game, and hold to OSU as the most important. That may be because the OSU game has so many times furnished a direct path to championships as a top of the league battle. Yet, there is convincing proof MSU is also a rivalry of note.
PAUL BUNYAN NEEDED TO STAY HOME: A neglected aspect of this game is the desire to own the Paul Bunyan Trophy. Initiated by Governor “Soapy” Williams in 1953, it was received in Ann Arbor at first with muted enthusiasm as it was designed to celebrate the entry of the Spartans into the Big Ten Conference.
Paul still does not earn the reverence afforded an icon like the Little Brown Jug, but it is painful to see him in the unhappy circumstance of living in East Lansing again for an extended period of time, or at all. He will spend another year in MSU captivity.
THE OFFENSE AND DEFENSE MADE A STAB AT A WIN IN THE SECOND HALF, BUT THREE INTERCEPTIONS AND OTHER ERRORS IN THE HEAVY RAIN CUT THEIR PROGRESS SHORT.
Michigan State received to start the second half and the defense held them to poor field position. M turned field position into what appeared to be their first TD on an eighteen-yard pass to Grant Perry. The refs said his knee was down at the one-foot line. Actually, it was his back side that landed first as he entered the end zone leaning backwards. But Kahlid Hill finished the task with a tough plunge, and the Wolverines had finally scored a TD. It was 10-14.
But the rains came, and John O’Korn threw his three interceptions that turned momentum in the second half. Both offenses stalled and the defenses slogged it out against them. The rains did not help, but at least one of those passes, if not more, were hurried passes tossed into a crowd. Part of that fault belongs to the leaky backs and OL, but some fault resides as well with O’Korn. He was often harassed, but it was not his best day.
THIS IS NOT THE DEATH KNELL OF THE WOLVERINE’S SEASON: It will just seem like it for least forty eight. There is a lot of season left and a lot left to be earned and learned, but M’s unexpected stumble at home against D’Antonio’s crew is a remarkable achievement for the Spartans, and a real blow M pride.
This win will get the Spartan horde off of D’Antonio’s back, at least for a while. It did nothing to reinforce Harbaugh’s portfolio. All those calling Harbaugh overrated will be gloating.
This was not Michigan’s night as there were too many M mistakes to be overcome. The conditions for the last half of the game were terrible, but the same weather existed for both sides, even if it is true that the team behind has to throw more in the downpour.
Bring on Indiana. The Hoosiers will present an entirely different set of challenges. How the Wolverine’s respond to this loss will reveal a lot about their character.