In the state of Michigan, there are two sides: Michigan and Michigan State. Only one side would go home happy after Saturday’s game in East Lansing.
The Spartans went home extremely happy.
Michigan was absolutely dominated in nearly every facet of the game. Michigan State’s defense propelled them to a 29-6 victory over the Wolverines. The Spartans have now won five out the last six contests.
I’ll make this straight to the point. Michigan played really bad. Michigan State played really well.
Poor Devin Gardner
Heading into the game, the quarterbacks of each team were highlighted as keys for each team. Devin Gardner didn’t play his best game, but he certainly didn’t play his worst. But No. 98 was roughed up early and often by the elite defense of MSU.
Gardner was sacked a total of SEVEN times in the game and he ended up with -46 yards rushing on 18 carries. Yes, negative 46 yards. The woes of the offensive line continued as Gardner rarely had time to even attempt a pass.
However, when Gardner had time, Michigan had some limited success. The Wolverines put together a pretty good opening drive as they drove the field, but were held to a field goal. Gardner found Jeremy Gallon three times on the drive, including a 35 yard completion on the first play from scrimmage. The drive would stall out, leading to Matt Wile to kick a long 49 yard field goal to put Michigan on the board first.
MSU would answer with a field goal of their own. The bulk of the yards on its opening drive came from a broken play when Connor Cook evaded the pass rush and found a wide open full back on the opposite side of the field. Trevon Pendleton’s 49 yard reception led to the Spartans’ field goal.
Much of the rest of the game Gardner didn’t have much success. A couple long completions to Devin Funchess and Jehu Chesson highlighted the rest of the Michigan offense for the day.
Gardner finished 14-for-27 for 210 yards and an interception. The pick was a forced throw when Michigan needed a big play quick. I don’t fault the effort there.
Michigan was flat-out embarrassed by Michigan State, but Devin Gardner is not to blame.
Running game (or lack there of)
Michigan ran the ball a total of 29 times. They were able to pick up a total of negative 48 yards. We thought the Penn State game was bad when Fitz Toussaint averaged just one yard per carry. The Wolverines averaged negative 1.7 yards per rush against MSU.
Michigan State boasts the nation’s top defense overall and it proved it on Saturday. With Michigan’s running game literally nonexistent, they were forced to throw the ball. This made things easy for the Spartan defense as they dialed up blitz after blitz, resulting in numerous hurries, knockdowns and sacks of Gardner.
The struggles in the running game have been going on all year. So when it faced a daunting test against a great defense, it was disastrous. The line was man-handled up front by Michigan State defenders and Gardner and Toussaint were routinely taken down in the backfield.
Michigan’s longest run in the game was a nine yard run from Toussaint. Fitz finished with 20 yards on eight carries.
In contrast, Michigan State ran the ball effectively, carrying it 39 times for 142 yards. Jeremy Langford carried the load with 120 yards on 26 carries.
After the teams traded field goals in the first and second quarters, Michigan State punched it in the end zone late in the first half, giving them a 13-6 advantage going into halftime.
On its opening drive in the second half, MSU kicked a field goal to go up 16-6. At that point, the 10 point deficit felt more like a 100 point deficit. That’s how good the State defense was.
After that, it was all Michigan State. They added another field goal and two more touchdowns on its way to a route of Michigan.
Jeremy Gallon caught five passed for 67 yards, Devin Funchess caught six for 65 and Jehu Chesson caught three for 82. Chesson’s 58 yard grab was probably the highlight of the day for Michigan, as he made a tremendous play on a deep ball.
Michigan’s top performer was probably Matt Wile. He kicked a 49 yard field goal and had some pretty good punts. Yeah, there were a lot of punts in this one. Wile punted it eight times, averaging over 40 yards each time, two inside the 20 yard line.
Well, Michigan’s hopes of a Big Ten title are all but gone. The offense remains inconsistent. To make matters worse, they have tough games for the rest of the year. They host Nebraska, then travel to Northwestern and Iowa before finishing with Ohio State at home.
The Wolverines better get things together, or they could realistically drop the rest of their games. I don’t see that happening, but it’s clear there is a lot to be done.