Dienhart: Michigan State is back, following its latest win vs. rival Michigan
Michigan State is back. And, in a big way.
The unranked Spartans made a big statement on Saturday night by taking a 14-10 win at No. 7 Michigan. That’s eight victories in the last 10 games for Michigan State vs. Michigan. And MSU coach Mark Dantonio is 8-3 all-time vs. the Wolverines. The Spartans have toppled Michigan eight times in a 10-year stretch for the first time in a series that dates to 1898.
But more importantly: The win sent a message to the rest of the Big Ten that last year’s 3-9 mark was an aberration. Michigan State is 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the Big Ten, also owning a home win vs. Iowa. The lone loss: To a very good Notre Dame team.
Will Michigan State win the Big Ten East? Probably not. But, you never know. Games remain vs. Penn State and at Ohio State (on back-to-back Saturdays in November). It will be fun to watch this team develop. It’s a well-coached bunch.
The reason for optimism is defense. Michigan State showed how ferocious it is in the front seven vs. Michigan, which had just 252 yards with only 102 on the ground (2.6 ypc). Linebacker Joe Bachie was all over the field, with 10 tackles, a sack, a TFL and one interception, which was one of five turnovers the Spartans forced on this day.
“When we got the momentum going, we turned it over,” Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh said.
Again and again and again and again and again.
“Can’t say enough about our defense,” Dantonio said. “We did it the hard way, right down to the last second.”
Michigan State continues to scratch out just enough offense. On this day, Brian Lewerke hit 11-of-22 passes for 94 yards and a TD. And once again, he led the team in rushing with 61 yards on 15 totes with a score. When will backs like LJ Scott and Madre London play bigger roles?
Who knows? For now, this bizarre and unconventional offense continues to do enough to keep the Spartans on track in the East. Up next is a game at Minnesota followed by a visit from Indiana and trip to Northwestern before the Penn State-Ohio State 1-2 punch.
What direction will Michigan (4-1, 1-1) go from here? That’s two home losses in a row to Michigan State, as Harbaugh looks for answers on offense. Quarterback Wilton Speight remains out after he got hurt at Purdue. When will he be back? Hopefully soon. John O’Korn struggled vs. MSU, completing just 16-of-35 passes for 198 yards with three interceptions on a wet night.
“It was different,” O’Korn said. “There was one point where there was a torrential downpour, but there’s no excuses.”
And the rushing attack gained no traction. It all looked a lot like Michigan’s offense in big games last year. Yes, the defense is legit. But do the Wolverines have enough offensive pop to beat the big boys? They didn’t on this night vs. MSU. And it means Michigan’s Big Ten title drought may extend to 13 seasons.
“I am just thrilled for our football team and thrilled for our fans,” Dantonio said.