Game 8 recap: #8 Michigan St. embarrasses “big brother” again; Ohio St. Buckeyes on deck

MSU's Jeremy Langford attempts to manuever past Michigan's Jourdan Lewis (26) and Jeremy Clark (34) during the fourth quarter of yesterday's 35-11 MSU win. Better luck next year, Wolverines.  Al Goldis -- AP Photo

MSU’s Jeremy Langford attempts to manuever past Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis (26) and Jeremy Clark (34) during the fourth quarter of yesterday’s 35-11 MSU win. Better luck next year, Wolverines. Al Goldis — AP Photo

On the banks of the Red Cedar…

Yesterday in East Lansing, for the sixth time in seven games, 8th-ranked Michigan State (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten East) beat Michigan (3-5, 1-3 Big Ten East), only the second time the Spartans have accomplished this feat since the series began way back in 1898. Winners of 14 straight Big Ten games, Sparty is looking like a team aiming for a playoff berth, and also one that is slowly establishing itself as a legitimate national championship contender.

Offense: MSU racked up 446 yards of total offense, 219 of them coming on the ground. RB Jeremy Langford (35 CAR, 183 YDS, 3 TD, LG 27) was an absolute workhorse, running for two touchdowns in the first half before running for a third late in the fourth quarter that cemented the final score. Of course, hurt Michigan fans claimed that MSU was running up the score, which humors me. On the previous drive, Michigan ran their offense through and through, scoring a touchdown and to cap it off, actually attempting a two-point conversion, which was successful. The final drive for MSU was the Jeremy Langford Show, as Langford was the only Spartan to touch the ball, running the ball 7 times for 48 yards and that touchdown which hurt the feelings of so many dedicated Wolverines fans. QB Connor Cook (12-22, 227 YDS, TD) was pretty good (not that he needed to be great against this Michigan team) and WR Tony Lippett caught 3 passes for 103 yards, including a 70-yard TD catch in the third quarter. Sparty picked up 22 first downs and converted half of their third down opportunities, but committed two turnovers, which led to 11 Michigan points.

Defense: For a while, a 48-yard field goal by Michigan K Matt Wile looked like it would be it for the Wolverines

Sparty Bunyan

Sparty Bunyan

in terms of scoring. Michigan couldn’t pass. Michigan couldn’t run. Michigan couldn’t block. I’m also pretty sure there were a few times when Michigan’s coaches couldn’t properly signal a call to their QB. Wolverines QB Devin Gardner and the rest of the offense were downright pitiful in the first half, amassing only 37 yards of total offense, all of them coming through the air. WR/TE Devin Funchess was a non-factor despite a respectable 5 catches for 64 yards and the Wolverines’ top two backs combined to run 20 times for only 74 yards. Michigan was able to score points in part because of MSU turnovers, but besides that, was no match for the Spartans’ defense. The Wolverines finished with a scant 186 yards of total offense while committing three turnovers. Michigan didn’t put together a drive of more than 25 yards until more than midway through the third quarter and never got into anything resembling a rhythm. Spartans LB Taiwan Jones (8 TKL, 2TFL, SK, INT, PBU) was in another world all game long, even managing to avoid being ejected in the third quarter for a targeting penalty that was later withdrawn. DE Shilique Calhoun (3 TKL, TFL, SK) registered his sixth sack of the season and LB Darien Harris had another strong game, finishing with 7 tackles, one for loss.

Special Teams: Spartans K Michael Geiger missed a 36-yard attempt in the first quarter, another ode to the greatness that is college kickers. P Mike Sadler punted 4 times, landing one inside the 20. There wasn’t much going on in the return game for any of the men deep for MSU. Somehow, Michigan’s Matt Wile made a 48-yard field goal. If only he would have hit another 8, our “big brothers” would have won.

What’s Next: Ohio State (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten East), in East Lansing, November 8 @ 8 ET. Ohio St. beat Penn St. (4-3, 1-3 Big Ten East) 31-24 in double overtime yesterday after blowing a first-half 17-point lead. Buckeyes QB J.T. Barrett was 12-19 for just 74 yards and two interceptions. He hadn’t performed that badly as a passer since OSU’s loss to Virginia Tech, but he did manage to run for 75 yards and 2 TD, including the go-ahead TD in the second extra period. Penn St. came into yesterday’s game a top-10 team in the country in total defense, and held OSU to just 290 yards of offense, a number Sparty should certainly aim for.

The Buckeyes are a half game behind the Spartans in the division standings and a win would virtually guarantee them a berth in the conference championship game, provided they don’t falter later in the season. Trust that Spartans HC Mark Dantonio has stressed to his team that this rematch of last year’s conference championship game is important, not just for division and conference standing, but national standing as well. A prime-time win over a top-15 Buckeyes team (albeit one without injured star QB Braxton Miller and a still-improving offensive line) would really help their chances for a playoff berth, especially since they’ll finish with relative cupcakes in Maryland and Rutgers before Penn St., and then the Big Ten title game.

It appears that whatever ailed MSU in their wins over Purdue and Nebraska has been fixed, at least for the time being. This is definitely trouble for an OSU squad that will play a night home game this Saturday against an Illinois group that didn’t quit in a 10-point road loss to Wisconsin two weeks ago and just yesterday beat Minnesota, handing the Golden Gophers their first conference loss and knocking them out of first place in the West Division standings. If Miller were healthy and playing, I would give the Buckeyes a puncher’s chance to beat the Spartans, in East Lansing, at that. Without him, the offense won’t be able to overcome a Spartans defense that hasn’t had problems stopping anyone outside of Oregon and briefly, Purdue (yes, that Purdue). We’ll have the pizza ready for you, Urban.

GO GREEN. GO WHITE.

 

 

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Game 7 recap: #8 Sparty scores 42 unanswered points to put IU away; Meechigan next

MSU WR Macgarrett Kings, Jr. (85) leaps over an IU defender to score a touchdown in yesterday's MSU 56-17 win in Bloomington, IN.  Sam Riche - AP

MSU WR Macgarrett Kings, Jr. (85) leaps over an IU defender to score a touchdown in yesterday’s MSU 56-17 win in Bloomington, IN. Sam Riche – AP

Last week, it took a pick-six from Michigan St. (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten East) linebacker Darien Harris with under two minutes to play to seal a 45-31 road win over Purdue (3-5, 1-3 Big Ten West). Luckily, I was able to only watch the second half of the game and came away less than encouraged, especially with the decent Hoosiers of Indiana University (3-4, 0-3 Big Ten West) on deck for a matchup in Bloomington. Praise Jeebus, for the 8th-ranked Spartans answered the proverbial bell yesterday as they dominated Indiana, 56-17.

Offense: From jump, the offense was clicking on all cylinders. RB Jeremy Langford (21 CAR, 109 YDS, 3 TD) scored the game’s first points on a 32-yard TD run. After an IU field goal, TE Josiah Price (3 REC, 83 YDS, TD) caught a 10-yard TD pass from QB Connor Cook (24-32, 332 YDS, 3 TD, INT). Not long after IU scored their second touchdown of the second quarter to take a 17-14 lead, Langford scored again, this time on an 8-yard TD run. To close out the first half, WR Macgarrett Kings, Jr. (6 REC, 59 YDS, TD) finished off a 14-yard scoring pass play by diving into the end zone over a member of Indiana’s secondary.

There was more of the same in the second half as the Spartans again scored 28 points, while racking up 321 yards of offense on 39 plays. RB R.J. Shelton (CAR, 5 YDS, 3 REC, 19 YDS, TD) caught a 4-yard TD pass from Cook to push the lead to 35-17 and Langford scored his third touchdown of the day on a 12-yard run to extend the lead to 42-17 early in the fourth quarter. A 22-yard TD run by RB Delton Williams (5 CAR, 55 YDS, TD) and late 76-yard TD run by RB Nick Hill (16 CAR, 178 YDS, TD) capped the scoring. This was as proficient as I’ve ever seen MSU’s offense, arguably speaking. Although their opponent was Indiana, they still rung up 662 yards of total offense; 330 coming on the ground (6.5 yards per carry) and 332 through the air. Sparty picked up 30 first downs and was 10-16 on third down. On top of scoring 42 unanswered points to end Indiana’s dreams of an upset, MSU also possessed the ball for close to 40 minutes.

DefenseAdmittedly, I was worried right after Indiana QB Zander Diamont ran for a 9-yard touchdown in the second quarter to give IU a 17-14 lead. MSU’s offense looked like it was up to the challenge at the time, but I feared the defense wasn’t. Although Indiana started that drive with very favorable field position at MSU’s 39, the 30-yard run by stud Hoosiers RB Tevin Coleman that set up Diamont’s scoring run almost looked like an early back-breaker. After struggling at times to stop Nebraska and Purdue in their last two tilts, I didn’t want to think of what could happen if Sparty couldn’t contain Coleman and Co. Fortunately for their playoff hopes, Sparty figured out a way to get stops, especially in the second half as Sparty began to run away with the game.

Coleman ran for 132 yards on 15 carries, including a long of 65, but managed to run for only 14 yards on 5 carries in the second half. Top IU WR Shane Wynn ripped off an incredible 75-yard TD run on a reverse play, but was held without a catch for the first time all season as IU could only muster 11 passing yards for the entire game. The Hoosiers were able to run for 213 yards (6.5 yards per carry), but most of that damage came in the first half. Diamont completed only 5 of 15 passes, was sacked 4 times, and looked generally lost throughout the game. After a fairly impressive offensive display in the first half, IU ran 23 plays and picked up only 27 yards of offense in the second. IU had 6 possessions in the second half and punted 5 times, while fumbling the ball away on their last.

For the Spartans, DE Shilique Calhoun (4 TK, 2.5 TFL, SK) and LB Taiwan Jones (5 TK, 1.5 TFL, SK) led the way. CB Trae Waynes (2 TK, 2 TFL, PBU, SK) also chipped in for a MSU secondary that was stout the entire game.

Special Teams: K Michael Geiger missed a 42-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter, but made all 8 of his extra-point attempts. P Mike Sadler punted 4 times for an average of 45.5 yards per punt with a long of 53. There wasn’t much action in the punt and kick return game.

What’s Next: MEECHIGAN!!! In East Lansing. Today is officially the beginning of “Beat Michigan” week and of course, I am ecstatic. Last week, Michigan (3-4, 1-2 Big Ten East) pulled out an ugly 18-13 home win over Penn St. Wolverines QB Devin Gardner was effective and TE/WR Devin Funchess was a matchup problem for the Penn St. Nittany Lions. Last year, the Spartans dominated the Wolverines in East Lansing, 29-6. With the Wolverines football program a bit of a mess and Sparty seemingly finding another gear after their early loss to Oregon, expect more of the same this year.

GO GREEN. GO WHITE.

“Little Brother,” Michigan State 29, Michigan 6 #MSU #Sparty #CFB

Several Spartans celebrate with the Paul Bunyan Trophy after yesterday's home win over rival Michigan, 29-6.

Several Spartans celebrate with the Paul Bunyan Trophy after yesterday’s home win over rival Michigan, 29-6.

While I got some joy out of beating my younger brother 24-4 in a one-on-one game of basketball, it didn’t give me the joy that I feel whenever Michigan State beats Michigan on the football field. Ever since I was a child, the belief was that Michigan had the superior football team, and it was mostly true. Besides that damn fight song of theirs, Michigan’s football program is elite, just off of reputation alone. And when the Wolverines weren’t seemingly relying on their reputation, they were actually doing some winning. They had a Heisman winner in the early 90s, a Heisman winner in the late 90s who led them to a national title, were a top-10 team for the first half of the 2000s and rebuilt themselves in the late 2000s into the solid program they are today, even one that won the Sugar Bowl over Virginia Tech in 2012.

Yesterday was a joyous one, as the Michigan State Spartans dominated their “big brother,” the Michigan Wolverines, at Spartan Stadium, 29-6. This game was for the Paul Bunyan Trophy, something the Spartans have gone home with after 5 of the last 6 games. Ignoring the usual pregame trash talk, this was a matchup that Spartan HC Mark Dantonio had his boys clearly amped up for, especially on the defensive side.

It is a bit difficult to say whether or not Sparty’s defense is the best in the land, but yesterday, DC Pat Narduzzi’s unit made a very strong argument for their case. Michigan’s offense came into the rivalry game averaging almost 50 points and 500 yards of total offense over their last three games. On the season, they had averaged a shade over 42 points and 446 yards of total offense per game. In addition to scoring a measly six points against MSU, Michigan’s O was held to a pathetic 168 yards of total offense, 2.8 yards per play, 2-13 on third downs, punted eight times, was sacked seven times, tackled for loss 11 times, fumbled three times, was intercepted once and ran for the lowest amount of rushing yards in school history: minus-48 yards, surpassing the dubious mark the 1962 team set against Minnesota. MSU linebackers Denicos Allen and Ed Davis combined for 4.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. DE Shilique Calhoun was a one-man gang, notching 2.5 sacks and 3 tackles for loss. That, my friends, is dominance.

Early on, it looked as if the Wolverines wouldn’t have too much of an issue moving the ball. On their first drive, starting at their 17, QB Devin Gardner (14-27, 210 YDS, INT) hooked up with WR Jeremy Gallon (5 REC, 67 YDS) three times for 57 yards before the Wolverines had to settle for a 49-yard field goal. That first drive was their best of the entire game and things only got worse from that point on.

When Michigan RB Fitzergald Toussaint (8 CAR, 20 YDS, one pregame insert of foot into mouth) wasn’t getting bottled up at the line of scrimmage, Gardner was running for his life. He was sacked five times in the first half and hurried probably twice as much. The Michigan offensive line was manhandled all game and we even got to see the great tackle, Taylor Lewan…commit several petty acts after the whistle had blown. Left on an island against the Michigan receivers, the Sparty secondary answered the call repeatedly, settling down after a shaky first drive and neutralizing any potential threat thereafter. All-everything CB Darqueze Dennard intercepted his third pass of the season, this one coming with Michigan in the red zone and trying to rally late.

Offensively, Sparty was good enough to not screw things up. Connor Cook (18-33, 252 YDS, TD, INT) missed a few open receivers, but made enough plays, overall. He also ran for a 1-yard TD that was the effective dagger in Michigan’s hearts, putting MSU ahead, 22-6 with 10:31 left to play. RB Jeremy Langford (26 CAR, 120 YDS, TD) continued his hot stretch, running for 100+ yards for the fourth straight week. He also has scored six times in that stretch, including a late 40-yard TD scamper late in yesterday’s ballgame that was the epitome of icing on the cake. There were a few drops from the receivers and tight ends, but nothing that cost MSU, obviously. WR Bennie Fowler (6 REC, 75 YDS, TD) and Tony Lippett (5 REC, 62 YDS) led the way, and even FB Trevon Pendleton (2 REC, 62 YDS) had a good receiving day, including a 49-yard reception on the Spartans’ first offensive play from scrimmage.

Sparty just about mauled Michigan in 2011, the last time these two teams played in East Lansing. Not only did Narduzzi’s guys absolutely embarrass former Michigan QB Denard Robinson and his teammates, but they exerted the kind of physicality that inspires most, and enrages some (who support the maize and blue, mostly). Yesterday had to have been worse for the Wolverines, because this time around, there weren’t a handful of personal foul penalties called against the Spartans. MSU simply beat the hell out of Michigan, from start to finish. DOMINANCE.

This win wasn’t a great win because I feel like I, or any of the Michigan State football players and fans/students have something to prove to anyone affiliated with Michigan. It was great because Michigan State and Michigan are true rivals, and that mentality spills over into the student and even citizen populations of East Lansing an Ann Arbor, respectively. We’re still behind in the series, by far, but feel things are changing for the better. That 29-6 show of command was a big first step. Now, Michigan isn’t this bad, offensively. Yesterday, they just ran into a buzz saw. A very physical, determined, aggressive buzz saw. Little brother. Heh.

Next.

MSU will now have a week off before traveling to Lincoln, Nebraska to face the Nebraska Cornhuskers (6-2, 3-1 Big 10 Legends). Nebraska beat Northwestern in Lincoln yesterday, 27-24, on a Hail Mary TD pass as time expired. Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez has appeared in only 4 games this season because of a foot injury, his last against Minnesota two Saturdays ago, a 34-23 loss in which he also suffered a hip pointer. He’s questionable for this Saturday’s game at Michigan, and the team will have to once again rely on leading rusher Ameer Abdullah, one of the Big 10’s best running backs. MSU-Nebraska will be big for the standings in the Big 10 Legends Division, as Nebraska sits 1.5 games behind Sparty. We should all have a better idea of what MSU will be up against after the Nebraska-Michigan game, however. Until then… Go Green. Go White.