Emotional edge FTW. Going into this game, I felt like Michigan had more of a reason to win this game. I mean, aside from the fact that Michigan State sucks and surely really wanted to win because sucking isn’t fun, Michigan should have had more of a reason. This stems mostly from the fact that Gemon Green and Ja’den McBurrows were viciously attacked in the tunnel last year. But this past week’s cheating allegations probably cheesed off the Wolverines quite a bit since their accomplishments were considered to be tainted by some. But it seems like emotion sometimes forces players and/or coaches to press. So in my game preview, I predicted a 34-10 victory. I thought Michigan might come out a little slow, might get caught by a trick play, etc. But it turns out Michigan didn’t have any trick plays up their sleeve. They didn’t really have much of anything up their sleeve.
Hit the jump for more.
Best game of J.J. McCarthy’s career? I kind of felt like this might have been the best McCarthy has played, even though the opponent wasn’t anything special. It ended up being his second-highest passing efficiency behind last week’s Indiana game, but it included a career-high 4 touchdown passes. On top of that, some of his throws were with pinpoint accuracy into small windows with great anticipation. He finished 21/27 for 287 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. There were a few hiccups (missing a wide open Tyler Morris, throwing a swing pass high to Blake Corum, trying to outrun MSU linebacker Aaron Brule and taking a sack, etc.), but his ability scramble and his ability to complete balls in the middle of the field really impress me. The second touchdown pass to tight end Colston Loveland was a laser delivered at just the right time and on a perfect trajectory, and McCarthy just seemed to have that feel all night.
Extremely dirty play from an MSU player? Check. Michigan State starting right tackle Spencer Brown was ejected from the game for a vicious, late, dirty hit on Braiden McGregor. When MSU quarterback Katin Houser threw a 72-yard pick-six to Mike Sainristil, McGregor threw kind of a block away from the play. Then McGregor ended up face down on the ground, and the 6’6″, 315 lb. Brown jumped crown-first onto the back of McGregor’s helmet. This type of dirty play seems to exist every year against Michigan State, going back more than a decade. From MSU players trying to decapitate Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner to Jacub Panasiuk making an extremely late hit on Shea Patterson to the entire team trying to intimidate Devin Bush, Jr. to the pricks from East Lansing attacking Gemon Green and Ja’Den McBurrows in the tunnel last year, it’s been more than a decade of this stuff. In response, Michigan State fans will say that Taylor Lewan was dirty – he as – and that Joe Bolden got called for targeting in 2015, which was one of the weakest targeting calls I’ve seen. So . . . those things are not equal.
Hello, A.J. Barner. Indiana transfer tight end A.J. Barner has been quietly solid all year, but this was a breakout game for him in the receiving department. He caught 8 passes for 99 yards and 1 touchdown in this one. His previous career high in receptions was 5, and he caught a 76-yard touchdown against Idaho in 2021, which represented his highest yardage total. In fact, nobody in 2023 has topped those reception or yardage totals, not even #1 receiver Roman Wilson. McCarthy had a high amount of trust in Luke Schoonmaker last season, and that dependability got Schoonmaker drafted by the Cowboys. But both Barner and Loveland are better players than Schoonmaker, and that’s not an insult to Schoonmaker, who was a solid all-around tight end.
Hello, Ja’Den McBurrows. I found it fitting that McBurrows popped up for his first significant plays in this one, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. McBurrows has received a lot of practice hype without much production so far in his career, but he made 3 tackles in this one (fourth most on the team) and notched his first career interception on a deflection in the fourth quarter. He had 4 career tackles going into this game. The coaching staff knew how much this game meant to him and gave him a chance to go out there and get revenge.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Michigan’s prowess in throwing the ball has been significant, but we have seen a drop-off in rushing performance. Perhaps the loss of Matt Weiss has hurt the running game, and perhaps the hiring of Kirk Campbell has helped the passing game. Regardless, the performances of Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards have fallen. The explosive plays are largely gone, and even the chunk plays have fallen off. Corum (15 carries, 59 yards, 1 TD) is still solid and churns for extra yards, but Edwards (6 carries, 14 yards) isn’t doing anything on the ground. He makes up for it through the air, but his 3.2 yards per carry this season is still at the bottom for running backs in the Big Ten.
What does MSU have in Katin Houser? I actually think the Spartans may have found a decent quarterback in Houser, who was a 4-star and the #225 overall player in the 247 Composite. But he’s a true freshman, and they might ruin him before he gets a chance to be good. He finished 12/22 for 101 yards and 1 interception before being replaced in the fourth. Michigan was way too overwhelming with their blitz packages, and MSU doesn’t have any receivers who can uncover on their own. The days of Keon Coleman and Jayden Reed are gone. Perhaps River Rouge (MI) River Rouge can bring that element in the 2024 class if he signs with the Spartans, but things are looking a little bleak at the moment.
Harlon Barnett was so cute at the beginning of the second half. Look, I don’t have anything against Harlon Barnett other than he went to and coaches for Michigan State. But MSU was down 28-0 at the half, and he opened the second half with some very peppy clapping and body language. When you’re down 28-0, you do what you can do as a coach to try to rally the troops and make sure the wheels don’t fall off. But there was no stopping the wheels from falling off on Saturday night. The Spartans did some decent things on the drive for a few plays, and then penalties and a general lack of talent cost them. Plus that whole 72-yard interception return for a touchdown.
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