Michigan State Thumps Michigan: Five Things We Learned About Both Teams
In the much anticipated in-state showdown between Michigan and Michigan State, the Spartans scored on five straight possessions en route to a dominating 34-17 win over their arch rival Wolverines. In short, just about everything we knew about Michigan State was confirmed, as was everything we knew about the Michigan defense. Despite moving the ball effectively, the Wolverines were plagued by turnovers and unable to generate points in the red zone.
Michigan State proved decisively that it was the better team. It imposed its will on both sides of the ball, and is clearly in the hunt for a Big Ten title. Michigan, on the other hand, will have to wait another year to beat Sparty, and need to regroup in a hurry if it hopes to have a chance again Iowa, Wisconsin, and Ohio State.
Michigan Defense: They Are Who We Thought They Were
The Michigan defense is terrible. Coming into this game, the defense was the big question mark, and leaving, it's the obvious flaw in Rich Rodriguez's plan to return Michigan to national championship contention. After a strong first quarter, the Michigan defense cracked and the flood gates opened. In a two quarter span, Michigan gave up 31 points, 24 unanswered.
The Michigan defense really fell apart late in the second quarter. After they thought they'd gotten off the field on a 3rd-and-10, a false start penalty backed up Michigan State and gave them another shot to convert the first down. Keshawn Martin's 17-yard catch and run gave Michigan State a first down. Four plays later, Le'Veon Bell rumbled 41 yards for a score. This inability to get off the field in third and fourth downs killed Michigan time and time again.
Michigan's defense hemorrhaged yards in the air and on the ground. They gave up 287 yards in the air and 249 yards on the ground. If they continue to give up this kind of yardage, Michigan can look forward to another long Big Ten season.
Denard Robinson Is Human: Michigan State Trips Up Shoelace
After torching five consecutive defenses, Denard Robinson cooled off in his sixth career start. While he threw for 215 yards and ran for 86 more yards, his costly turnovers overshadowed his two-touchdown day.
Coming into the game, Robinson averaged over nine yards a carry. Michigan State was able to limit Robinson to a four yard per carry average. He was unable to get into the secondary and tear off the long runs that have thus far defined his tenure as the Michigan quarterback.
In the passing game, Robinson wasn't as accurate as he'd been previously. He missed some relatively easy throws. Even more costly were his two interceptions in the end zone. Though they moved the ball well, Robinson was unable to guide the Wolverines into the end zone. Had Robinson made better decisions or thrown more accurately, (especially on the second pick where he had a man but threw behind him) the complexion of the game may have changed.
Despite his turnovers, Robinson was still impressive. But in this game, unlike the first five, it was clear that he is still a young quarterback and has a lot of refining to do in the passing game.
Michigan Needs Another Option
In the postgame, Robinson said, "It's a team game, not an 'I' game. I can't put everything on my shoulders,." He's right. Michigan is one more playmaker away from being a truly lethal offense. Right now, teams are able to key on Robinson and slow down the offense. Michigan really needs a dynamic running back to keep defenses honest with the read option. If team's are unable to cheat to Robinson, he will have more room to run and not be forced to shoulder the offensive burden.
While Roundtree, Grady, and Hemingway are all decent receivers, what Robinson needs is a partner in the backfield who can carry the ball consistently for decent yardage. Michigan hopes it has found that guy in Demetrius Hart, a recruit out of Orlando. Unfortunately, for Michigan and Denard Robinson, Hall won't arrive on campus for another season.
Michigan State: Blue Collar Team
Michigan State is a well coached, solid team. They chased and harassed Denard Robinson all afternoon. They were able to keep Robinson in front of them, and corral him after short gains. The linebacking corps deserves special credit for their sure-tackling and ball swarming. While Michigan was unable to take Le'Veon Bell and Edwin Baker to the ground, Michigan State's first defender was typically able to make a tackle after contact.
They also made big plays when it mattered. Greg Jones and his defense bent, but rarely broke. Trenton Robinson and Chris Rucker came up with key interceptions to keep Michigan from putting points on the board. This disciplined aggressive defense gives Michigan State a chance to win the Big Ten title.
Michigan State ran the ball 42 times for 249 yards and threw 26 times for 287 yards. This kind of balance is difficult to defend. They were accurate in the passing game and averaged 5.9 yards per carry. Sure, Michigan's porous defense made them look good, but the interior offensive line was able to open giant holes and protect the quarterback.
Just as important as their ability to get production in both the running and passing games is their ability to spread the ball around. Three different running backs scored touchdowns and each averaged more than four yards per carry. They spread the ball around in the passing game as well. Eight different players caught balls from a consistent Kirk Cousins. While Michigan State is unlikely to get this kind of production each week, the Spartans have multiple weapons and are difficult to pigeon hole on defense.
Fire Matt Millen
The state of Michigan needs to go Marcellus Wiley on Matt Millen.
"There is no you and me," and, "you lost your football privileges."
Seriously, this guy is the architect of the only 0-16 team in the history of the NFL. Michigan and Michigan State fans can all agree on their general hatred for Millen. Why in the world ABC/ESPN put Millen on this game, a guy universally hated in Michigan, is a mystery to me. Maybe they wanted to torture both teams' fans, I don't know, but Millen's commentating only added to my misery as I watched my beloved Wolverines unravel in the Big House.