As the final whistle blew and everyone in the Big House dressed in green and white were celebrating, Spartans center John Stipek proclaimed that the Paul Bunyan Trophy is going back to where it belongs: East Lansing.
After a 34-17 pounding of Michigan in their stadium—the third straight victory for MSU for the first time since the 1960s—it was apparent that one player (Denard “Shoelace” Robinson) could not match up with an entire team.
Robinson seemingly lost the game and a shot at the Heisman Trophy by throwing crucial interceptions (three to be exact), killing drives and providing momentum on a silver platter for the Spartans. He didn’t run for 100 yards as he had the previous five games, nor did he show a sense of confidence exhibited in non-conference play.
Aside from an even first quarter of play, the game belonged to Michigan State: more total yards, more big plays, more rushing yards, more passing yards and no turnovers.
MSU’s defense was the most talented regime the Wolverines had seen, pressuring Robinson with different schemes and corralling him upon impact. The secondary picked off passes in its own red zone, blowing the air out of the Big House and making Robinson second guess as the game went on.
The Spartans’ offense wasn’t too shabby, either.
All cylinders were rolling as Kirk Cousins took care of the ball and led his unit in a near-perfect performance. The running attack continued to shine, amassing over 200 yards on the ground for the fifth time this season—including two 40-plus yard touchdowns by Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell.
For all the hype coming into this game, only one team lived up to it. Both teams may be going in different directions.
For Michigan State, this may potentially be one of its best seasons in quite a while. The team has great continuity in every phase of the game—offense, defense, special teams. Just look at kicker Dan Conroy, who hasn’t missed a field goal all year long.
Without Ohio State on the schedule, the toughest games remaining include one against Northwestern (a possible trap game) one week before a trip to Kinnick Stadium and a matchup against the Iowa Hawkeyes. This MSU team seems to be as confident as ever, approaching each game in a business-like manner and taking care of business.
For Michigan, fans of the maize and blue are already worrying whether this season will be a replica of just one year ago, when Michigan State defeated them in overtime and sent them in a downward spiral for the rest of the year.
Each program is fighting for different goals at this point; Michigan State for a BCS berth, and Michigan to get its act together and not plummet for the third straight year.
For Mark Dantonio and his team, there is still plenty of work to be done. They just might have all the pieces they need to end on a high note.