No. 2 Michigan (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) overcame an early fight by Michigan State (2-6, 0-5 Big Ten) but created some separation in the second half and slammed the door shut on the Spartans in the second half for a 32-23 win. The win keeps Michigan undefeated on the season and on top of the Big Ten East Division and puts the Spartans on very thin ice as it relates to postseason opportunities. It was Michigan’s first win in Spartan Stadium since 2007 and most-lopsided win since 1997 (23-7).
Michigan State’s running game proved to be effective in the first half, but the lack of any threat in the passing game ended up being part of the reason the Spartans could not keep up with Michigan. LJ Scott rushed for 139 yards and a touchdown in the losing effort, but Mark Dantonio‘s game-time decision to go with Tyler O’Connor resulted in a 4-for-10 for 34-yard afternoon, with an interception. Damion Terry and Brian Lewerke would get some time on the field as well, bu the damage was already done by the Wolverines.
Michigan’s offense was just unstoppable, scoring points on all of their first-half possessions to take a commanding 27-10 lead into the halftime break. The box score may not reveal a fantastic performance by Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight, but he still passed for over 200 yards and found a way to connect with Amara Darboh for some big gains. Michigan spread the ball around well on the ground too, including De'Veon Smith (2 TDs), Eddie McDoom and even Jabrill Peppers (1 TD, and one two-point conversion fumble returned for two Michigan points). Michigan also just played a cleaner game, with fewer penalties and slightly more success on third down than the Spartans. It all helped put Michigan State’s clock management plan to the scrap heap.
A week after Ohio State slipped up on the road against Penn State, Michigan appeared to leave little doubt who the best team in the Big Ten is as we move into November. It’s the Wolverines right now. Next week Michigan will return to Michigan Stadium and will be a heavy favorite against Maryland. That should leave Michigan at 9-0 heading into the final three games, which will include road trips to Iowa and Ohio State. So there is still work to be done, but Michigan has every reason to feeling confident about their chances right now.
Michigan State is now in serious danger of failing to reach the postseason at all. Today’s loss dropped the Spartans to the six-loss mark, meaning they are just one loss away from being ineligible for postseason play under NCAA rules. Michigan State still has games to play against Ohio State and Penn State in the final two games of the season after getting Illinois and Rutgers in the next two weeks. The last time a power conference champion failed to reach the postseason the following season was in 2010, when Texas took the Big 12 crown and played for the BCS National Championship in 2009 and went just 5-7 the following season. Ironically enough, Texas lost in that championship game to Alabama, the same program that flushed Michigan State right out of the postseason last January.
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio may have bumped the panic button when it comes to his quarterback situation in East Lansing. With Michigan State preparing to play Northwestern, the Spartans have listed three quarterbacks at the top of the depth chart this week, a distinct contrast to Dantonio’s previous show of support for Tyler O’Connor last week.
Of course, three straight losses for a team replacing Connor Cook after making the College Football Playoff and winning the Big Ten can do that to a program. After Michigan State lost on the road at Indiana to fall to 0-2 in Big Ten play, the Spartans were roughed up at home by BYU. Now, O’Connor is listed at the top of the depth chart along with Damion Terry and Brian Lewerke. Terry replaced O’Connor during the loss to BYU last weekend. Lewerke was last seen running the offense late in the game in a blowout loss to Wisconsin.
How the three quarterbacks will be used against Northwestern remains to be seen. Will Dantonio give each player a series to see what they can do? Two series? A quarter? Might they be used depending on the situation? This likely will not be the old Steve Spurrier method of rotating quarterbacks, but it does seem to indicate Michigan State has reopened the quarterback competition just about midway through the season. That is not exactly the ideal situation
Michigan State’s passing offense ranks eighth in the Big Ten with an average of 213.0 yards per game and eight touchdowns to six interceptions.
For the first time in a while, Michigan State has a little bit of a question mark at quarterback, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. With Connor Cook on his way to the NFL, the multi-year starter as the Spartans’ quarterback says big things are on the horizon for Michigan State’s upcoming quarterbacks.
“Just excitement, you’ve got Damion Terry, who can make the throws and make plays with his feet, you’ve got [Tyler O'Connor], who has a cannon for an arm,” Cook said while at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. “They are guys who know the offense, who aren’t going to go in and be unsure of themselves. They’ve proven themselves on one of the biggest stages they could have played on, so you know they are going to have confidence going in.”
Terry appeared in more games (10) than O’Connor in 2015 (6) behind Cook, but it was O’Connor who got more opportunities to throw the football in relief. O’Connor completed 54.2 percent of his 24 pass attempts for 133 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. Terry attempted just seven pass attempts, and he completed two for 15 yards. Terry did show what he can do with his feet though, rushing 21 times for 68 yards, finishing with 12 more rushing yards than Cook and 20 more than O’Connor.
As noted by MLive.com, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio is expected to open spring practices with O’Connor being labeled the No. 1 quarterback on the depth chart, but at this stage of the game it is far too early to suggest that will be the case by the time the fall comes around. A strong showing in spring practices by either O’Connor or Terry could set the tone heading to the summer and offer a more definitive glimpse as to who has the lead to be Connor’s successor on offense.
“They have all the ability, it’s all just up to them on how hard they want to push themselves and how hard they want to work,” Cook said.
As expected, Michigan State running back Delton Williams is back with the Spartans for fall camp, in plenty of time to get in shape for the start of the 2015 college football season in East Lansing. Williams was recently reinstated by head coach Mark Dantonio, allowing him to get on the practice field today, and his return has teammates buzzing.
“Delton coming back means a lot, and I’m glad he got another chance,” Michigan State quarterback Damion Terry said in a story published by MLive.com. Terry is a former high school teammate of Williams. “I think people have learned about the other side of his story, and his upbring and where he’s from.”
Williams was suspended by the program in March following a traffic incident with a firearm charge. He was left off the spring roster, seemingly putting his future with the program in jeopardy.
Williams appeared in 13 games for Michigan State last season, in which he rushed for 316 yards and five touchdowns. Both of those numbers were good for third on the team behind Jeremy Langford and Nick Hill. With both having moved on, Williams is Michigan State’s leading rusher returning in 2015.
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio was pushing to get 50,000 fans to show up at Spartan Stadium for the annual spring game, but he had to settle for 48,000 fans instead. That was still good enough for a school record for the spring game.
The 48,000 fans that did show up were treated to a handful of trick plays and familiar dominance in the trenches. The only touchdown of the game was scored by center Jack Allen, who found space on his way for a short touchdown run after 300-pound guard Donavon Clark rumbled 13 yards on a lateral from quarterback Connor Cook. Do not expect to see too much of that during he regular season, but do not forget about it either. Dantonio is know for pulling some tricks in key moments, but even that might be considered a bit of a costly risk.
As for individual performances, Shilque Calhoun was credited for 2.5 sacks in the game.Cook went 11-of-22 for 105 yards. It was not a stellar performance from the Spartans’ quarterback, but there is no real reason for concern in East Lansing. that is because the starting offensive line was split between teams. Put them all together and Cook should be in good shape in the fall. Cook’s backup, Damion Terry, did not play in the spring game as he recovers from injury.
Michigan State’s crowd of 48,000 was locked in as the fifth best this spring around the Big Ten. Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State and Michigan all finished ahead of the Spartans, but Dantonio should feel good about the crowd that turned out. In Madison, Wisconsin, the crowd was considerably smaller, but there is a lot to do in Madison. Michigan State’s attendance (combined with the totals from Wisconsin and Iowa on Saturday) pushed the total spring attendance around the Big Ten to 410,943, giving the Big Ten the largest combined spring attendance in 2015.