There were some bright spots, but there were ultimately overshadowed by a big fourth quarter for the Wolverines that put the game away and earned them the Paul Bunyan trophy for the first time since 2019.
Let’s get into the takeaways from the game. As a note, this article will focus specifically on what happened on the field and not touch on the postgame scuffle that has been covered in other articles.
The defense was able to keep the Spartans in it
This one seems unexpected considering how some of Michigan State’s games have played out this year, but the defense actually played a pretty solid first three quarters, and was able to keep hope alive despite some offensive woes.
The defense came out with a fire lit under them, forcing a fumble on Michigan’s first drive. Momentum seemed to be on the Spartans’ side early, and they kept the Wolverines out of the end zone enough for most of the contest to make it a competitive game.
But, the fatigue set in toward the end, and after a special teams mishap, Michigan’s dominant run game was able to punch in a game-sealing touchdown by Blake Corum to stretch the lead to 29-7.
Despite the rough finish, the defense had an impressive performance, and was able to keep the deficit to just two possession until the botched snap on a punt in the fourth quarter. It’s a promising sight moving forward, and although it might sting to lose to Michigan, a performance like that is something the Spartans can build on to close out the year. With a 7-1 Illinois squad on the clock, Michigan State might be able to pull off an upset next week if the Spartans can clean up some other areas.
Another week, another special teams mishap
One of the more frustrating issues this Michigan State team has dealt with has been special teams snafus. Snapping in particular has been an issue, as starting long snapper Hank Pepper has been out dealing with some sort of injury. The final play in regulation against Wisconsin, twice against Maryland, and again on Saturday against Michigan, bad snaps have plagued this team.
This time, it set up the nail in the coffin for Michigan State, as it gave Michigan the ball well inside the Spartans’ red zone before Corum punched in his second touchdown on the game.
The special team woes have killed Michigan State all season, and if the Spartans want to make a bowl game this season, they absolutely NEED to address the issues here.
Plus, MSU has no kicking game to speak off and it clear Mel Tucker and the coaching staff have zero confidence in their placekickers.
Keon Coleman has an even brighter future than we thought
Keon. Freaking. Coleman.
One of the few bright spots on offense on Saturday, Coleman had an outstanding performance on the Spartans’ lone touchdown drive of the game, with multiple big catches before ultimately bringing in the score. His physicality and athleticism really showed throughout the first half. So much so that he was drawing double teams in coverage in the second half. Coleman finished the game with five catches for 155 yards and a touchdown.
Having a weapon like that the next few years is going to be a huge asset for the Spartans. With Jayden Reed headed out after this season, Coleman will be a true WR1 next year, and needs to be a focal point of the offense going forward. It won’t be long before he’s playing on Sundays.
The Spartans battled hard for most of Saturday night before some unfortunate mistakes iced the game in Michigan’s favor. Michigan State still have a chance to make a bowl game and make the most out of the remainder of the season.
Illinois is going to be a pretty tough test on the road, but with the promise the defense showed against the Wolverines, Michigan State might be able to pick up a win against a top-15 team on Saturday if the Spartans clean up the mistakes they made against Michigan. We’ll see what happens next week, and the Michigan State players and coaches have already turned their attention to the Illini.
Kickoff for the matchup against Illinois is set for 3:30 Eastern Time on Big Ten Network.