EAST LANSING, Mich. — Try as it might, there were no late-game heroics for Michigan State against Michigan this year. The Spartans lost their sixth game in a row, falling 32-23 to rival and No. 2-ranked Michigan Saturday afternoon at Spartan Stadium.
The Spartans took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 5-yard run by LJ Scott but Michigan quickly answered with a touchdown on its first drive and then kept answering as it beat Michigan State for the first time since 2012 and just the third time in Mark Dantonio’s 10 seasons.
Michigan State added two touchdowns in the fourth quarter but is now 2-6 on the season and 0-5 in the Big Ten. It is the program’s first 0-5 conference start since 1982 and its longest overall losing streak since the same season when it lost its first seven games.
Scott rushed for 139 yards on 22 carries against a Michigan defense that came into the game allowing an average of just 96 yards but the Wolverines (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) remained undefeated by scoring on six of its first seven possessions.
Michigan State will be on the road next Saturday at Illinois, with a noon ET kickoff.
Five things we learned
- LJ Scott is Michigan State’s No. 1 back. Saturday was his second consecutive 100-yard game, the first time he’s done that in his two seasons, and his third 100-yard game of the season. Gerald Holmes is still seeing some action but Scott is clearly No. 1 now. He added another 47 yards on two receptions.
- The defense continues to get pushed around too easily. Michigan had nine plays that gained at least 15 yards in the first half and 12 for the game. Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight had five completions of 15 yards or more to wide receiver Amara Darboh
- Targeting is a subjective call. Last week it was linebacker Riley Bullough who got ejected in the first quarter against Maryland for a helmet-to-helmet hit but there was no flag and no ejection this week for Michigan’s Devin Bush when he hit Michigan State’s Chris Frey in the helmet while delivering a block on a punt return in the second quarter.
- The quarterback situation remains muddled. Tyler O’Connor started for the first time in three weeks but Damion Terry and Brian Lewerke each played in the fourth quarter, with Lewerke throwing a touchdown pass to Monty Madaris with 7:31 left to play. O’Connor started the game completing 4 of 6 passes for 34 yards but had just three incompletions and an interception until returning to the game late in the fourth quarter and completing a 35-yard pass to Scott. Who starts next week at Illinois is anyone’s guess.
- Madaris’ touchdown was the first of his career. The fifth-year senior from Cincinnati took in a 20-yard throw from Lewerke for the score to make it 30-17. He had seven career catches coming into this season. He now has 18 for 244 yards this season.
It was a 7-7 game in the first quarter and Michigan State was driving in Michigan territory at the 38-yard line when the Spartans faced a fourth-and-1 play. Gerald Holmes got the ball and headed to the right side but Michigan linebacker Jabrill Peppers came from the backside and stopped Holmes for no gain.
Michigan took over and needed less than two minutes to take the lead for good on a 1-yard touchdown run by De’Veon Smith. Michigan State never got closer than four points the rest of the game.
Question answered for Michigan State
Has Michigan gotten over last year’s wild finish and 27-23 loss to Michigan State? Most definitely. The Wolverines dominated in every phase after falling behind early. Give Lewerke some credit as he got people thinking about a possible comeback in the fourth quarter. He had the Spartans in scoring territory the series following his touchdown pass to Madaris but was sacked on fourth down from the Michigan 13 to end the rally hopes.
Can the Spartans finally break their losing streak next week at Illinois? The initial reaction would be a definitive maybe.
Michigan finished the game averaging (6.8) yards per play but for much of the first half the Wolverines were averaging more than 10 yards a play. They ended the half averaging 8.7 yards per play. Michigan State gained 112 yards on 23 plays on its first two drives of the game but had just 51 yards on 11 plays on three final possessions in the first half as Michigan took a 27-10 lead.
What it means
Michigan handled its business against Michigan State. The Spartans were 24.5-point underdogs coming into the game, so that’s going to make some people happy. The Spartans are now 1-4 at home. The 9-point loss is the smallest margin of defeat among the four home losses.