Perhaps no team accomplished as much offensively against Michigan this season as Michigan State did on Saturday. But don't let the final score fool you, the undefeated Wolverines owned the vast majority of this one.
The Spartans amassed 401 total yards and hit the end zone three times, but that didn't stop the Wolverines from staying unbeaten and reclaiming the Paul Bunyan Trophy with a 32-23 win in East Lansing.
Michigan State was a 25-point underdog but wowed on its opening drive, rolling over the Michigan defense behind a tremendous effort from running back LJ Scott, who touched the ball 12 times on the drives including the five-yard touchdown run to finish it off. Of course, Michigan did an equal amount of impressing with a heck of an answer, making things look real easy on an 80-yard scoring drive that ended with Jabrill Peppers diving for the pylon on a direct-snap carry to even the score at 7.
From there, the Spartans made a habit of reaching deep into Wolverines territory but couldn't cash in with any points. Peppers made a big stop of Gerald Holmes on the drive after his touchdown run, allowing the Michigan offense to take over and get two huge plays — a 33-yard rush from Eddie McDoom and Wilton Speight's 26-yard completion to Jake Butt — before De'Veon Smith found pay dirt to cap another easy-looking drive.
Each team added a field goal, and Smith scored his second touchdown of the game later in the second quarter to make it 21-10. Tyler O'Connor — getting the start at quarterback for Michigan State — made an ill-advised throw that was intercepted by Jourdan Lewis, and Michigan added a field goal as time ran out on the first half.
It was Michigan State on the positive end of an interception to open the third quarter, Darian Hicks picking off Speight and taking it back inside the 35-yard line, but again penetration deep into Michigan territory couldn't yield any points. The Spartans got in a goal-to-go situation and got bailed out on a pass-interference penalty on Peppers on third down, giving them a fresh set of downs. But the Wolverines’ defensive front proved just too good, stopping Scott on four straight rushes, forcing a turnover on downs and erasing any momentum that interception gave the Spartans.
Michigan countered with a lengthy, seven-minute drive that ended in another field goal, and again Michigan State took the ball deep, only to attempt a field goal on fourth and goal from the 17-yard line, a kick Michael Geiger missed and a decision that raised more than a few eyebrows with Mark Dantonio's team trailing by 20 in the fourth quarter.
The Spartans added two touchdowns late with the game seemingly already out of reach, Brian Lewerke and O'Connor each making scoring throws. On the second — which came with just one second left on the clock — Michigan State fumbled a pitch on the two-point conversion attempt. Peppers picked it up and dashed all the way down the field to add two late points for the Wolverines.
Michigan State finished with more than double the amount of points opponents were averaging against this out-of-this-world Michigan defense and racked up more than 400 total yards, 217 of them coming on the ground. Scott finished with 139 rushing yards, while Lewerke and O'Connor combined for 13 completions, 184 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Michigan put up far fewer points than it had been averaging — a weekly number close to 50 — but still piled up 436 total yards. Speight had 244 passing yards despite no touchdowns and an interception. McDoom, Karan Higdon, Smith and Peppers combined for 159 rushing yards. But the biggest day for a Wolverine on offense belonged to receiver Amara Darboh, who hauled in eight catches, some in spectacular fashion, for 165 yards.
The win helped Michigan stay unbeaten, improving the perfect record to 8-0 and 5-0 in the driver's seat of the Big Ten East Division. Next up is a date with Maryland.
The loss was Michigan State's sixth straight and plummeted its record to 2-6 and a stunning 0-5 in conference play, meaning it will have to win out to become bowl eligible. A trip to Illinois is next.