40 MPH gusts of wind greeted Michigan and Michigan State at Spartan Stadium this afternoon. Denard Robinson and the Wolverines hoped they would be winds of change. Unfortunately for 11th ranked Michigan, the Spartans used a strong rushing attack and staunch defense to blow their rivals back down to earth.
It was a strange looking game from the start. Michigan State unveiled their green and gold Nike Pro Combat uniforms, while Michigan came out in a white on white reverse of their under the lights game. Neither team looked like themselves, and neither team looked sharp in the first half.
The teams went into half tied 7-7. Each team scored on their first possession, with Robinson scoring on a 15-yard highlight scramble and Edwin Baker scoring on a one-yard rush to answer. In retrospect, these two scores represented the entire game for both squads. Michigan’s offense was broken, awkward , and out of sorts. Michigan State was no-nonsense, straight-forward and effective.
The Spartans took the lead after scoring on their first drive of the second half. Great field position due to the strong winds gave Michigan State a short field. Poor tackling technique gave Michigan State a touchdown. Missed tackles plagued the Wolverines throughout the game, no more so than on the back to back short touchdown receptions by Keyshawn Martin.
Michigan State tried their best to let the Wolverines back into the game with a litany of undisciplined penalties. The chief culprit was sophomore defensive lineman William Gholston. Twice Gholston was flagged for unsportsmanlike penalties that are sure to draw the ire of Michigan fans for the rest of his time in East Lansing. The first came on play where he was whistled for a late hit on Denard Robinson. Replays showed that Gholston wrenched Robinson’s neck by grabbing him by the facemask in the pile. Later in the game, Gholston was flagged for punching Michigan lineman Taylor Lewan in the head (I never understandd why players think that punching someone with a helmet is effective). Gholston was not ejected from the game, but might be getting a call from the Big Ten office this week.
Michigan failed to capitalize on Spartan mistakes throughout the game. With the exception of a Roy Roundtree touchdown that immediately followed a Michigan State fumble, the Wolverines never made their opponent pay for penalties or turnovers. Despite this, Michigan still found themselves in the game late, down just 21-14 with 4:31 remaining in the game. However, a Robinson interception was returned for a touchdown, and all hopes of stopping the losing streak to the Spartans went with it.
Robinson struggled mightily all game long. After completing his first two passes, the junior finished just 9-24 and routinely overthrew receivers. Wolverine fans have grown accustomed to his struggles passing the ball, but have never witnessed Robinson’s legs be held in check this much. The quarterback, who came into the game as one of the leading rushers in the nation, was held to just 42 yards and did not appear to be his explosive self.
Michigan fans and the Spartan defense saw a heavy dose of sophomore quarterback Devin Gardner, leading many to believe that some of Robinson’s struggles were due to injury. Regardless of who was behind center, the Wolverines struggled to move the ball due to a combination of stout Spartan defense, interesting play calling, and poor decision making.
The Wolverines now find themselves at 6-1, 1-1 in Big Ten play. They will certainly fall in next weeks polls, but Michigan coaches and players alike will agree that their #11 ranking was too high to begin with. The team has a bye week to prepare for Purdue, and will need the time off to get healthy and figure out how to rejuvenate the stagnate offense.