For the fourth straight season, Michigan State has shed the role of “little brother” to defeat Michigan. On Saturday, the Spartans faced the best team the Wolverines have been able to field over that stretch, but ultimately it was not enough as Michigan State prevailed 28-14.
Michigan State established the run early in the first half, limiting the chances Michigan QB Denard Robinson had to make big plays. Edwin Baker had his best game of the season, a welcome sight for Spartan fans.
Five Quick Keys to the Game:
1.Edwin Baker Runs Wild
The junior running back broke out with 167 yards on 26 carries, easily his most impressive output this season.
It was his first 100-yard game since Nov. 11, 2010, against Penn State. His running set the tone, helping the Spartans sustain touchdown drives of 63, 54 and 61 yards.
Just as important, those drives were all of nine plays or more, which kept Denard Robinson off the field. Michigan State won the important time of possession battle.
2. Kirk Cousins’ Decision Making
Although Cousins finished the game 13-of-24 for 120 yards, he did not commit the critical mistake he has been prone to make in big games.
When called upon to pass, Cousins was very sharp with his delivery, putting the ball in the hands of his two playmaking receivers, B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin. It was about the best performance a quarterback can have throwing for 120 yards.
3. Johnny Adams and Isaiah Lewis Tighten Up
The starting cornerbacks for Michigan State played outstanding, not counting the missed tackle by Johnny Adams on Roy Roundtree, which led to the only Michigan touchdown of the second half.
The tight coverage by Adams and Isaiah Lewis allowed Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi to get creative with safety blitzes. Ultimately, the game was sealed by Lewis’ pick-six as a result of the pressure on Robinson.
4. Denard Robinson’s Inability to Throw the Football
This is becoming a recurring theme for the Michigan Wolverines. Robinson dazzles with his feet, but when called upon to perform the most basic functions of a quarterback, he hardly delivers. Robinson finished the game completing only 9-of-23 passes for 123 yards.
While his yardage matches that of Kirk Cousins, it is far less excusable. Playing from behind for the entire second half, Robinson rarely made good plays where he got the ball in the hands of his playmaking receivers enough.
Under heavy duress late in the fourth quarter and trailing by only a touchdown, Robinson threw an interception which was returned for six points.
Michigan has proven to start the season hot, but then quickly fell off the last two seasons. While there is no question Robinson is a magician when he finds the open field, his issues as a passer should have Wolverine fans concerned that they will see a repeat of the last few seasons.
5. Keshawn Martin Steps Up
Despite a few dropped passes and a fumble, Martin found the end zone twice on Saturday. Both were after the catches that took extra effort for Martin to reach the pylon.
One of the Spartans’ biggest areas of concern so far this season is finding another playmaker to compliment B.J. Cunningham for when defenses key on the prolific receiver.
If Martin can keep up this kind of production, it gives the Spartans another huge option offensively as they continue through their most rugged stretch of their Big Ten schedule.
Of course there were many other facets of the Michigan game that will be discussed as the week goes on and the Spartans prepare for their game next Saturday against No. 4 Wisconsin.
The first and foremost point will be the inexcusable personal fouls committed by Michigan State, specifically by William Gholston.
While fumbles by Martin and Baker were not capitalized on by Michigan, you can be sure the Wisconsin Badgers will be far less forgiving for any errors committed by the Spartans a week from now.
For the time being, the Spartans can revel in their victory over their most-hated rival and enjoy a 2-0 start to the Big Ten season.