EAST LANSING, Michigan - After a year long narrative of being unable to win rivalry games, the Michigan Wolverines silenced their critics, shutting down the Michigan State Spartans 21-7.
I will say, this might have been the ugliest game of football I have ever seen and I went to Bowling Green. (too soon?) Let’s disregard the fact that the entire stadium had to be evacuated because an apocalyptic storm hit East Lansing; the offenses were atrocious. Michigan looked promising coming off the rain delay, putting together an 84-yd drive that was capped off with a bullet of a touchdown pass from Shea Patterson to Nico Collins. If you liked that, then boy were you in for a rude awakening; the scoring about stopped there. Despite having stellar field position for four straight drives, the Wolverine offense couldn’t capitalize and put the Spartans away early and Harbaugh wasn’t ready to take chances. The half would end with Michigan only leading 7-0. The second half started with a second round of the storm, and a Wolverine fumble inside their own 10-yd line. Mark Dantonio called for a reverse pass not unlike the fabled “Philly Special” we saw last super bowl, with QB Brian Lewerke catching the touchdown. Just like that, the Spartans were back in it and Michigan fumbled away more opportunities. Finally, Shea Patterson showed what some refer to as “Shea Magic”, pulling off some incredible ball fakes on read option runs and connected with Donavan Peoples Jones for a 79-yd bomb to put the game away 21-7.
If you’re wondering why I haven’t touched on the Spartan offense much, it’s because it was basically non-existent. Going into this game we knew the Spartans were banged up, and it was very apparent. They rushed 23 times for a mere 15 yds, and Lewerke did his best John O’Korn impression, going 5-25 for 66 yds. It’s a known fact that Dantonio gets his team to play at their absolute best every year against Michigan, but no amount of motivation was going to protect Lewerke and running back LJ Scott from the Wolverine defense. “Our defense was lights out today” said Coach Harbaugh.
Ok now let’s get to the fun part…the pre-game “scuffle”. All week long we (the media) had been CRAVING some trash talk between the two teams. Where were the tweets? Instagram posts? Interview quotes? All we got was Dantonio and Harbaugh putting each other on a pedestal for being “respectful”. Oh man…that narrative took a complete 180! “Apparently they close lines two of our guys, ripped off one of Lavert (Hills) headphones and Coach Dantonio was 5 yds behind it all smiling so bush league…that’s my impression of it” said Coach Harbaugh. Senior running back Karan Higdon, usually soft spoken, did not back down from expressing himself today. “We knew they didn’t want to play us. They were tired, they were hurting…we knew this was going to be a pound-for-pound game and they weren’t going to be able to last with us.” Oh and to add to that, star defensive end Chase Winovich dropped a little brother reference on TV. The so called “respect” is gone, and this rivalry got a hell of a lot more interesting. See you next year where the Paul Bunyan trophy now resides: Ann Arbor.