Another year, another Michigan State Spartans victory over the Michigan Wolverines. That marks eight wins in the past 10 meetings for Michigan State, and head coach Mark Dantonio is now 8-3 overall against his bitter rival.
This past Saturday’s game just had the feels of an upset waiting to happen, and it did, as Michigan State went into Ann Arbor to face the No. 7 team in the nation and walked out with a victory.
Why was Michigan State able to once against beat Michigan? Here are five Spartans whose contributions led to a win for the green and white.
1. Mark Dantonio:
Simply put, Dantonio owns the Michigan Wolverines. As mentioned earlier, Michigan State’s head coach is now 8-3 against Michigan overall, and has won four of the past five meetings. He is 4-1 at the Big House and 2-1 against the mythical creature Jim Harbaugh. He was and still is, in every way, a savior to the Michigan State football program. He will always have his Spartans up for the Michigan game, and without a doubt, he runs the best football program in the Mitten State right now. Despite a horrid 2016 season, an even worse offseason and an incredibly young football team, he led his team to yet another victory against Michigan.
2. Joe Bachie
Fans were unsure what to expect from Bachie entering the season, as he was a relative unknown after playing mostly special teams and spot duty in 2016. But, wow, he has been fantastic so far as the quarterback of the defense. After finishing this weekend’s game with 10 tackles, Bachie now has 44 on the season, which leads the Spartans. The middle linebacker also forced a fumble, recorded a sack and had a clutch interception. As just a sophomore, Bachie is a big leader for this defense and young team and continues to shine. The Ohio native was all over the field on Saturday night, getting his first real taste of the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry after not seeing much field time in last year’s contest.
3. David Dowell
Dowell made plays against the Wolverines. He recovered a fumble right before the first half ended, made a beautiful interception off of a tipped pass and then added yet another pick to his box score in the fourth quarter. Dowell was opportunistic, taking advantage of Michigan’s mistakes and bad decisions by quarterback John O’Korn. Dowell recorded seven tackles, including four solo. David’s brother, Andrew, also turned in a nice game with nine total tackles, including one for a loss. A third Dowell brother, Michael, will join the Spartans in 2018. The more the merrier!
4. Madre London
With L.J. Scott being “nicked up” and surprisingly sitting the entire game despite being dressed, and Gerald Holmes dealing with an ankle injury throughout the contest, London really stepped up for the Spartans. Holmes was able to come back into the game, but it was London who carried the load with 10 carries for 59 yards and two catches for 19 yards and what proved to be the game-winning touchdown. London’s 5.9 yards per carry was the best mark for a player on either team. The Spartans out-rushed the Wolverines 158 yards to 102 yards. The Michigan defense pinned its ears back in the second half, and the weather made things difficult, but the Spartans won the rushing battle.
5. Brian Lewerke
It was not pretty, but Lewerke managed the elements and led his team to victory. Most importantly, Lewerke did not turn the ball over. His final stat line read as 11 of 22 for 94 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions, adding 61 yards on 15 carries and a score on the ground. Michigan State as a team did not give the ball away, and that was the difference in a game where both offenses struggled to move the ball. Lewerke also made a clutch play toward the end of the game where he picked up the football off of a bad snap and ran for a first time by rolling on top of the defender.
The defense as a whole and front seven were spectacular, but the Michigan State secondary deserves a shout-out. MSU’s young defensive backfield often covered the Michigan receivers like glue, and for long periods of time, which eventually lead to sacks or turnovers. Josiah Scott, Justin Layne, David Dowell and Khari Willis all played very well. This group is fun to watch, and Scott may be something special.
Let’s keep it in perspective, MSU still has a lot to fix: boneheaded penalties in clutch situations, uncreative playcalling, the offense going stagnant in the second half two weeks in a row now. But however you slice it, this is a big victory and it always feels so good to beat Regular Michigan. A lot of the offensive woes could be due to weather in the second half, and a dominant Michigan defense made some good adjustments, but that’s why getting a first half lead was so vital to winning this game.
OK, new week, new opponent. The Minnesota Golden Gophers are on the clock. Please focus, Spartans.