Bush league: MSU offense dominated by Wolverines in rivalry loss

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Coming off an upset win over Penn State last week, Michigan State looked to carry their momentum over into Saturday’s matchup against in-state rival Michigan. Michigan was coming off an important Big Ten win themselves against Wisconsin and traveled to East Lansing, where they last won their most recent matchup against the Spartans in 2016.

Drama preceded Saturday’s game with some altercations between players on both teams. After a few Michigan players were caught up in Michigan State’s pregame linked-arm walk of the field, Michigan linebacker Devin Bush used his cleats to dig into the Spartan logo at midfield; from the start of the game, it was easy to tell that this game would be high-intensity from the start.

Neither team was able to score on their opening drives and being forced to punt. This proved to be a constant in this game, totaling 19 punts between the two teams.

With 5:15 left in the first quarter, the incoming storm from the west necessitated a delay which lasted an hour and 15 minutes. During this time, fans were forced to evacuate Spartan Stadium due to lightning before being allowed to re-enter in time for the 1:47 restart.

Michigan’s drive after the rain delay heavily favored the left side of the field. A deflected ball on a third down found the hands of Nico Collins for a first down, followed by a 25-yard completion from Shea Patterson to tight end Nick Eubanks that put the Wolverines near the red zone. To open the second quarter, Collins was the target again 6-yard pass in the end zone to open the scoring.

Collins’ touchdown ended up as the only scoring that took place in the second quarter. Michigan State failed to take the ball into Michigan territory for the entire first half, due in large part to MSU quarterback Brian Lewerke’s struggle to complete passes.

Lewerke finished the day 5 of 25 for just 66 yards, including a span of eight straight incompletions. LJ Scott returned from injury and managed only 25 yards rushing on the day as Michigan’s defense was able to contain the Spartans’ offense, who ended up punting on all six of its drives in the first half.

While Michigan’s defense was able to produce 170 yards of offense in the first half, the Wolverines were only able to score once. Kicker Quinn Nordin missed a 36-yard field goal wide that would have been Michigan’s second score of the day. The teams entered the half with Michigan ahead by a touchdown.

A scary sight for the Spartans came in the second quarter as wide receiver Felton Davis III went down clutching his lower leg during a play. During halftime it was announced that Davis tore his Achilles on the play and will be out for the season.

Michigan State was forced to punt to start the second half, but a fumble caused by Raequan Williams on the Michigan 8-yard line resulted in Michigan State’s sole touchdown of the game: a trick play with wide receiver Darrell Stewart passing to Lewerke in the end zone to tie the game at 7.

A fumble from each team in the third quarter ended with no points for either team, but a 79-yard touchdown pass from Patterson to Donovan Peoples-Jones with 2:24 left in the quarter gave Michigan a lead they would not relinquish. Michigan State was shut down again by Michigan’s defense on the ensuing drive and were subsequently scored on again on the Wolverines’ next possession, capped off by a 5-yard rushing touchdown by fullback Ben Mason.

Michigan’s third touchdown proved to be the last of the game as the Wolverines won their second straight visit to East Lansing, 21-7. The win is Michigan’s first road win against a ranked opponent since 2006 and their first against Mark Dantonio when turning the ball over twice.

MSU moves to 4-3 with the loss and plays at home against Purdue next Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.