EAST LANSING, Mich. – Mark Dantonio has always embraced Michigan State’s rivalry with Michigan, but last week the confident coach took a fairly calm approach.
Don’t worry about all the things that are being said – just keep your mouth shut, Dantonio said. Get ready to play, start the game and finish stronger than when you started. We were going to let the lion out of the cage at 3:30, and that’s what happened.
Dantonio’s Spartans battered their biggest rivals for the full 60 minutes Saturday, and 24th-ranked Michigan State remained unbeaten in the Big Ten with a 29-6 victory over the 23rd-ranked Wolverines. Michigan was sacked seven times and finished with minus-48 yards rushing, the worst output in the Ann Arbor program’s lengthy history.
This after the Wolverines had vowed Saturday wouldn’t be a repeat of the game in East Lansing in 2011, when Michigan State’s physicality was too much for Michigan.
Two years ago was nothing, Michigan State linebacker Denicos Allen said. It was a lot worse today, and I think they felt it.
Michigan State (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten) has won five of the last six meetings with the Wolverines (6-2, 2-2), and this was the Spartans’ most lopsided win in the series since 1967.
Connor Cook threw for a touchdown and ran for one, but this game belonged to Michigan State’s defense, which solidified its spot among the nation’s best with an overwhelming performance on a rainy afternoon at Spartan Stadium. Shilique Calhoun and Ed Davis had 2 1/2 sacks each, and Allen added two more.
We’re going to bully people – that’s the game of football, Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said. We didn’t want any personal fouls – we had one stupid one, I think on special teams at the end – we talked really about not getting any penalties. ... They’ve got a good football team, but we’ve got a great football team.
Michigan State entered ranked No. 1 in the nation in total defense, and the Spartans looked positively dominating for most of the game. Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner was sacked four times in the first quarter, and things only got worse for the Wolverines on one drive in the second.
On first down from the Michigan State 49, a shotgun snap sailed over Gardner’s head for a loss of 20. After a sack on third down and a Michigan penalty, the Wolverines finally punted on fourth-and-48.
A lot of negative yardage plays. There were some pretty good runs once in a while, but when you snap the ball for a 20-yard loss and get sacked I don’t know how many times, your yardage part of it isn’t very good, Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. You put yourself behind the 8-ball, not executing and then you’re forced into doing things you don’t want to do.
With the score tied at 6, Michigan State’s offense finally broke through, driving 75 yards on 10 plays for the game’s first touchdown. It came on a 14-yard pass from Cook to Bennie Fowler with 23 seconds left in the half.
The second half was more of the same. Michael Geiger’s third field goal of the day made it 16-6, and the Wolverines were stuck deep in their own territory for much of the third quarter.
Michigan’s previous low point for rushing was in 1962, when the Wolverines were held to minus-46 yards by Minnesota. The Wolverines have now lost 10 straight road games against ranked opponents – the last victory was in 2006 at Notre Dame.