Postgame Thread: MSU 28, Michigan 14


Now we are so happy ... well, you know the rest:

Paul Bunyan will be staying in East Lansing for another year, and our senior class is the first one since 1963 to graduate without a single loss to Michigan. The win also puts us in strong control of the Big Ten West race: we're the only unbeaten (in conference) left in the division, and we have the tiebreaker over Michigan should it come to that. Even with a loss next week to Wisconsin we would still control our own destiny for reaching Indy (with the tiebreaker over Michigan and chances to beat Nebraska and Iowa ahead).

The good:

  • There were a lot of skeptics regarding our defense before today, noting that we'd only played one opponent with a competent offense all year. I think that skepticism is gone now. Excluding Gardner's runs (but not Robinson's, so I'm probably including a sack or two in the count here), 30 rushes for 97 yards is a decent enough day against anyone. Against Michigan, that's a great day. The two quarterbacks combined to go 12 for 31; some of this was undoubtedly the high wind messing with their accuracy, but when the ball was thrown to a receiver the coverage was nearly always right on top of it and broke up a few passes. Isaiah Lewis even had the clinching pick-six late.
  • Edwin Baker. 26 carries, 167 yards and a TD. He set the tone on the opening drive (with five carries for 49 yards and the touchdown to tie the game), and Michigan had trouble containing him all day long. Only negative was a fumble after a 21-yard gain.
  • Keshawn Martin had only three catches to go with three rushes, but two reached the end zone. Like Baker, he also fumbled once.
  • Kirk Cousins had a reasonably good game. Only 13 of 24 for 120 yards, but that includes at least three catchable balls dropped by receivers. More importantly, none of the horrible decisions that have led to crippling turnovers in the past. On a windy day with the running game going, that's all we really need from him.

The bad:

  • Field position, although this is largely a function of Michigan consistently going chicken and punting from in our territory. Our offense rarely could get anything going when in the shadow of the goalposts, however, and this led to a lot of Michigan plays in our territory. The defense consistently came up strong and got the ball back, but the field position battle could have been much better if not for ...
  • 13 penalties for 124 yards. Many Michigan drives might have died out much earlier if not extended by a late hit. William Gholston in particular stood out for a twisting-the-facemask-after-the-play penalty and a punch thrown at Taylor Lewan. The latter was provoked to an extent (Lewan had wrestled him to the ground by the helmet), but you simply can't retaliate like that; the refs might miss the first one but they always see the second. Being aggressive is one thing (if the occasional offside call is the price we pay for seeing Jerel Worthy tackling the running back before he can even get the handoff, I can live with that), but we do not need to be delivering multiple late hits. Hopefully this is an aberration from being a bit too amped-up for the rivalry game.

2-0 in the Big Ten, sole leaders of the West division. Next up: Wisconsin, Nebraska, (EDIT: Forgot Minnesota is between these two; that's what I get for writing this without checking the schedule.) and Iowa. Get through that stretch at 2-1 (EDIT: 3-1) and a division title is in sight.

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