Enraged Spartans continue dominance over Wolverines

Michigan State's Jeremy Langford runs past Michigan's Frank Clark during the first quarter Saturday.

Al Goldis/AP

EAST LANSING, Mich. — If the Michigan State Spartans needed one more thing to fire them up before Saturday’s game, the Michigan Wolverines gave it to them.

According to the MSU players and coaching staff, the Wolverines drove what looked like a wooden stake into the field near the 50-yard line prior to the game, which did not sit well with anyone on the Spartans’ sideline.

The gesture only fueled MSU’s already burning fire, and the Spartans rolled to a 35-11 victory over their in-state rival.

"You might as well just come out and say what you’re feeling at some point and time because you can only be diplomatic for so long," MSU coach Mark Dantonio said following the game. "The ‘Little Brother’ stuff, all the disrespect, they didn’t have to go in that direction."

Michigan coach Brady Hoke was "not fully aware" of his player’s action.

"I think I was aware that something happened, but I’m not fully aware," Hoke said. "I heard that a young man put a stake in the ground."

The Spartans responded by bookending the victory with statement scoring plays.

Quarterback Connor Cook personally threw the first punch at Michigan on MSU’s first possession of the game, running over safety Delano Hill to pick up 13 yards. The play set up running back Jeremy Langford for a two-yard touchdown run just 3:08 into the game.

"When he does something like that, it is going to bring a lot of adrenaline and enthusiasm to our football team," Dantonio said. "It was a power run, and he got his foot down and got vertical. It was a good play call and good concept, and a big play on that drive."

The second statement came at the end of the game, when MSU held a 28-11 lead on their final possession of the game. With the image of the stake in their minds, the Spartans didn’t hold back and marched 48 yards for the game’s final touchdown.

Was there some extra team spear-it on display around the 40-yard line by one of the Michigan players during pregame? Take a look.

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"Throwing a stake down in our backyard out here and coming out here like they’re all that, it got shoved in the last minute and a half," Dantonio said. "We weren’t trying to get a field goal. That wasn’t the M.O. If our guys could get it in, we were going to get it in."

Clearly, the rivalry has not lost its luster.

"We all saw them throw the stake in the ground," offensive lineman Jack Conklin said. "I mean, they came in our house and did that. We weren’t going to let off."

MSU (7-1, 4-0) has now won six of its last seven matchups against Michigan (3-5, 1-3), including the last four games played at Spartan Stadium. While the Spartans now have a bye week to prepare for one of their most important games of the season, against Ohio State, the Wolverines are in danger of missing the postseason.

Michigan’s best opportunity to stay in the game came in the first half, despite being held to zero rushing yards and 37 passing yards.

After MSU’s Chris Frey was ejected for targeting, the Wolverines received the ball at the Spartans’ 29-yard line, but quarterback Devin Gardner lost a fumble on the next play.

Michigan also recovered tight end Josiah Price’s fumble late in the second quarter but had to settle for a field goal.

"We had some opportunities, some shots at some big plays," said Hoke, who has been under heavy scrutiny during his fourth year in Ann Arbor. "That changes the momentum, but we’ve got to finish and we’ve got to execute."

The Wolverines trailed only 14-3 at halftime, though, and were positive heading into the third quarter. But their window of opportunity quickly closed.

The Spartans used two explosive plays to take a 28-3 lead. Safety RJ Williamson returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown, and Cook found Tony Lippett for a 70-yard touchdown reception.

"When he got that pick-6, it really helped us out and started our momentum," cornerback Trae Waynes said of Williamson. "It was a great play by him.

"His whole play today was a statement game. He came out and was really enthusiastic and he played very passionately today. We all fed off of it."

Running back De’Veon Smith helped Michigan score its first touchdown against MSU in 11 quarters — dating back to 2011 — with just under three minutes remaining in the game, but the Wolverines’ offense had arrived a little too late.

The Paul Bunyan Trophy will stay in East Lansing for at least one more year, and it was hoisted with pride by the Spartans, who didn’t play like anyone’s little brother Saturday afternoon.

"We don’t just play for us," Cook said. "We play for our families and players that have played for us in the past. We want to win every single game.

"The hype is a little bit more for this game because it’s a battle for the state. I’m privileged to be on a team who’s done so well against Michigan these past couple of years. We’re not going to look at it any other way."