Michigan State rides five Michigan turnovers to 14-10 victory
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Mark Dantonio has done what seemed improbable a decade ago and in the previous century, figuring out a way to help Michigan State have its way with Michigan on a consistent basis.
Brian Lewerke ran for a touchdown and threw for a score in the first half and the Spartans held on to beat the seventh-ranked Wolverines 14-10 on Saturday night.
Michigan State (4-1, 2-0 Big Ten) has beaten Michigan eight times in a 10-year stretch for the first time in a series that dates to 1898.
“I told our football team, every player that comes here, to dream big,” Dantonio said.
The Wolverines (4-1, 1-1) had the ball late with a chance to drive for a go-ahead TD, but a heave from the Spartans 37 as time expired hit the turf near the goal line.
Michigan could not overcome many mistakes, including five turnovers and several costly penalties. John O’Korn , replacing injured starter Wilton Speight, threw three interceptions in the second half. Ty Isaac and Sean McKeon fumbled.
“When we got the momentum going, we turned it over,” Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh said.
The Wolverines opened with a 16-play, 64-yard drive that took nearly 7 minutes off the clock, but they had to settle for a field goal and a 3-0 lead. They didn’t lead again against Dantonio, who has taken control of a rivalry that has historically been tilted in Michigan’s favor. Despite the recent slump, the Wolverines are 69-36-5 in the series.
Lewerke scored a go-ahead TD on a 14-yard run late in the first quarter. He threw a 16-yard pass to Madre London to put the Spartans up 14-3 midway through the second quarter.
Michigan scored its only touchdown midway through the third quarter on Khalid Hill’s 1-yard run to cut it to 14-10.
The Spartans didn’t have a first down in the second half until their final drive of the game, a possession that started with 2:13 and ended with a punt from the Michigan 47 that went through the end zone with 34 seconds left.
Michigan began its last drive with 34 seconds and no timeouts left and picked up 30 yards on the first snap on a 15-yard pass to Karan Higdon and a 15-yard penalty on Chris Frey for tacking him out of bounds. The Wolverines wilted after that as Eddie McDoom dropped a pass and they had to back up 5 yards due to a delay-of-game penalty.
Michigan State: The Spartans have a chance to have a relatively special season in what was expected to be a rebuilding season.
“We’re not done yet,” linebacker Joe Bachie said.
Michigan: The Wolverines miss Speight more than expected. When he was ruled out for multiple games with an undisclosed injury, many fans seemed to be excited about having O’Korn under center after his solid performance at Purdue. The maize-and-blue clad fans were left groaning for much of the night because O’Korn simply struggled.
BY THE NUMBERS
Lewerke was 11 of 22 for 94 yards and a TD and ran 15 times for 61 yards and another score. Michigan State’s Madre London, filling in for LJ Scott, had a 50-yard run and finished with 59 yards rushing on 10 carries and had a TD reception. O’Korn was 16 of 35 for 198 yards with three interceptions. Michigan’s Karan Higdon ran for 5.4 yards per carry, but was handed the ball just 12 times. Chris Evans also had 12 carries, but finished with just 27 yards rushing for the Wolverines. Michigan receiver Grant Perry led all receivers with five catches and 61 yards receiving.
Harbaugh fell to 1-2 against Michigan State and he’s 0-2 against Ohio State. He was asked about that record against rivals, and chose not to address it.
LITTLE BROTHER LIVES
The Spartans’ string of success started after former Michigan running back Mike Hart referred to Michigan State as a “little brother,” after a win in 2007.
“We definitely talked about it,” Lewerke said. “We definitely played it beforehand. Coach D uses that as motivation.”
When Michigan State players celebrated with fans in the stands after the game, a “Little Sisters!” chant broke out.
About 20 Michigan players formed a circle and locked their arms together during the national anthem.
PLAYING IN THE RAIN
Strong winds and heavy rain affected the game in the third quarter, making it even more difficult for the offensively challenged teams to move the ball.
“It was different,” O’Korn said. “There was one point where there was a torrential downpour, but there’s no excuses.”
SUITED UP, NOT READY TO PLAY
Michigan State kept its top running back, Scott, out of the game. He was on the sideline in uniform, but didn’t have his helmet on.
“We felt he could have played, but couldn’t risk having him out a couple weeks,” Dantonio said.
Michigan State: At Minnesota.
Michigan: At Indiana.