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A win is a win. I know people are upset that the #2 team didn’t beat Michigan State by more, but anything can happen in a rivalry game like this. Michigan State probably isn’t as bad as their 2-6 record suggests, and Michigan hasn’t really proven that they can hang with the big boys like Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and the like. Michigan fans seemed overconfident this week when talking about this game, and I think that was partially wishful thinking. Ultimately, all we really needed out of this game was a win. It didn’t need to be a by a wide margin, and Michigan didn’t need to be pulling away. When the clock ran out, Michigan just needed to be up by a point. They needed to get over that hump and that mental roadblock stemming from recent years, especially last year’s debacle. Mission accomplished.
Hit the jump for more.
Michigan State gashed Michigan up front. The Spartans had suffered injuries up front, but this is the type of team that concerns me at all times. I think Michigan is well suited to stop zone teams or teams with small lines, because they have the quickness up front to shoot gaps and split those zone double-teams. But a power double-team is different, and MSU still has some guys on their offensive line who can help grind out some yardage. I think one of Wisconsin’s mistakes has been going to more of an inside zone scheme, but Michigan State has kept their principles of running power and counter, and they have recruited guys who can run it. They have also done a quality job of recruiting backs like L.J. Scott to carry the ball. Scott isn’t a wrecker or a blazer, but he has a good combination of skills and has the patience to wait for the holes to open. I think Michigan has been lacking that type of guy who has the power to run through tackles but also the burst to hit the hole when he sees it.
Referees schmeferees. I saw a lot of people complaining on Twitter about the referees, and yes, I thought they sucked. But they sucked both ways. There were some questionable pass interference penalties, but Jourdan Lewis deserved his and more. He’s grabby and arrives early with frequency. Michigan got away with a “rub” play last week when Tyrone Wheatley, Jr. picked off an Illinois defender to free up Jake Butt for a touchdown, and they got called for it this week. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Mark Dantonio and Michigan State gave the referees a heads up about Michigan’s tactics, and good for them – they’re doing their jobs. I did think MSU got away with a couple holds, but I thought Michigan got away with a couple questionable hits on MSU players. Altogether, it was an inconsistently called game, but I don’t think it favored either team.
Where have you gone, Jehu Chesson? The demise of Jehu Chesson as a receiving threat has been an under-the-radar story line this year. Chesson was just an afterthought in this game with 2 catches for 29 yards and 1 carry for 2 yards. Last year he seemed like he was on his way to becoming a 2nd or 3rd round pick, in my opinion, and right now he looks like a third day option. He can’t seem to get open, and Wilton Speight rarely seems to look for him, anyway. Granted, Chesson missed a lot of time due to injury this spring and summer, and the Speight-to-Amara Darboh combination seems to have better chemistry (to the tune of 8 catches for 165 yards), but the lack of explosive plays for Chesson has been curious. Even tight end production seems less than ideal. I half expect teams to take away Darboh and see what the other guys can do, but so far this year, it seems like Speight is going to keep feeding Darboh, regardless.
Channing Stribling grumble Delano Hill grumble grumble. I’m not going to sit here and say Stribling and Hill are terrible, because they’re not. They’re solid components of a very good defense. But I will point to those two and say that if I’m a team preparing for Michigan, those are a couple guys I want to attempt to exploit. Stribling is extremely tentative when stopping the run, and his coaches have even mentioned that in the past. He did a crappy job of setting the edge against UCF on that 87-yarder, and he made a piss-poor attempt to tackle L.J. Scott on a 40-yarder in this game, along with a couple other weak plays. Hill, meanwhile, stupidly kept alive MSU’s second drive when the defense had stopped tight end Josiah Price on a third down conversion attempt. He kept grinding Price even after the whistle blew, and when Price pushed Hill – which Hill frankly deserved – Hill went ahead and gave Price a two-handed shove that he should have known would have been flagged. Sure enough, the flag went in favor of MSU. He also had a couple blown assignments and missed tackles. I’m a strong believer in “control what you can control,” so if you’re too small or too slow to get the job done, fine. But if you give poor effort or lose your cool, that bothers me.
Michigan seemed to run out of steam. Emotionally and coaching-wise, I thought Michigan seemed to run out of steam in the fourth quarter. They seemed to pull a bunch of tricks out of their sleeve early in the game when it came to motions, Pepperscat plays, and such, and then the team just kind of settled in to wait for the inevitable hang-on-for-dear-life ending. Maybe that’s my errant perception or maybe it’s just the hangover from seeing Michigan lose to Sparty for the better part of the last decade, but I wasn’t impressed with some of the tweaks and calls Michigan made late. The Wolverines need to do a better job of getting their speedy, athletic guys the ball in creative ways. Eddie McDoom, Jehu Chesson, Chris Evans, Jabrill Peppers, and others all have the ability to make people miss or break big plays. Michigan seems intent on running out tight ends and fullbacks, though, even when the other team can match up with Michigan’s physicality. I think this team has the speed to run out four legitimate receivers and spread the field both vertically and laterally, but we have yet to see much of that.
Malik McDowell is a beast. He only had 2 tackles (both for loss), but he was destroying people up front. I will be glad when he leaves.
I didn’t understand Mark Dantonio’s game strategy at the end. With :01 second remaining, Michigan State scored a touchdown to make the score 30-23. It’s almost impossible to win the game at that point because an onside kick cannot be advanced, so as soon as it touched someone’s hands, time would almost certainly run out. The only chance would be if Michigan fully recovered the ensuing onside kick, fumbled it, and then saw it returned for a score. But anything can happen (which we saw last year). Michigan State could have kicked the extra point to make it 30-24, which would have meant that a (however unlikely) touchdown would make it 30-30 with a chance for an extra point to win. Instead, though, MSU went for a two-point conversation, which would have made it 30-25 with a chance to score a touchdown on a fumbled return. That touchdown would have sealed the deal without the extra point, but an extra point is almost a given in college football. On that dumb two-point attempt, though, a speed option pitched ended up on the ground, and Jabrill Peppers returned it for two points to make it 32-23. It seemed like the only reason to go for two was to attempt to save face and make the game appear to be as close as possible.
Review of game predictions:
- R.J. Shelton beats Channing Stribling for a touchdown: I was wrong. It was Monty Madaris who beat him deep for a score.
- Michigan holds MSU to 85 yards rushing: MSU racked up 217 total yards on the ground.
- Wilton Speight throws his third INT of the year: Yep. He threw an ill-advised wheel route to Karan Higdon that was intercepted by Darian Hicks.
- De’Veon Smith scores 2 touchdowns: Check. He had 5- and 1-yard touchdown runs.
- Michigan 31, Michigan State 14: Well, I went for a total of 45 points with a margin of victory of 17. The actual score, 32-23, was a total of 55 points with a margin of victory of 9. I was very close on Michigan’s score, but MSU kept putting up a fight until the end.
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