Run This State
Behind the strength of a record-breaking defense, MSU lands biggest win over U-M since '67
Following MSU’s 29-6 victory against Michigan, State News football reporters Stephen Brooks and Dillon Davis analyze and break down some of the game’s biggest moments.
During Saturday’s game against Michigan, MSU paid tribute to Percy Snow.
One of the most talented linebackers in program history, and the leader of MSU’s 1987 Gang Green defense, Snow became notorious for his nose for the backfield, earning him the Butkus and Lombardi awards, a Rose Bowl victory and eventually, a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Few were more feared; few were more integral to their team’s success.
Yet, a greater honor to one of college football’s hardest-hitting linebackers came in the game with the Wolverines, as the No. 18 Spartans physically punished Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner all afternoon, totaling seven sacks and holding U-M to -48 yards rushing in a 29-6 win at Spartan Stadium.
The win marks the largest margin of victory for an MSU team against U-M since 1967, and the defense held Michigan to the fewest rushing yards in a single game in the history of the program.
Contributing two sacks in the game, senior linebacker Denicos Allen said the defense felt the tension of the Michigan offense each possession and big play.
“We definitely felt the frustration coming from them,” said Allen, who was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation national defensive player of the week for his efforts. “Every time (Devin) Gardner would get hit he would kind of get up with this look of frustration and kind of doubt.”
Sophomore quarterback Connor Cook threw for 252 yards with one touchdown and one interception, along with a fourth quarter rushing touchdown that sent Cook fist pumping down the sidelines and junior center Travis Jackson jumping up and down at the goal line.
Cook’s lone touchdown pass was to senior wide receiver Bennie Fowler, who pulled down the fade pass in the corner of the end zone for his fifth receiving touchdown of the season.
Fowler was MSU’s leading receiver of the day, finishing with six receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown.
And while the overwhelming defensive output is not lost on anyone, Cook said the Spartans stayed poised on the offensive side of the ball, feeding off the energy of the defense to score points when given the chance.
“We continue to say that as an offense that we go against them every single day, we’ve gone against them for the past however many years and we do good against them,” Cook said. “So if we do good against them, we can do good against any defense in the country, and I think that’s what we did today.”
Early in the game, the teams struggled to move the football through sloppy playing conditions, trading field goals until MSU’s final offensive drive of the first half, which was capped by Fowler’s touchdown reception to put the Spartans ahead, 13-6.
Another field goal by freshman kicker Michael Geiger made it a two-possession game with his third quarter 35-yard field goal.
The game could have turned after Cook threw an interception near the end of the third quarter, giving the Wolverines a fighting chance in a matchup of Big Ten heavyweights.
But the defense held Gardner from taking a shot at the end zone, forcing him to lose five yards on the next play from scrimmage followed by back-to-back sacks to give MSU the ball back in the fourth quarter.
From there, Cook added seven points with a one-yard rushing touchdown, while junior running back Jeremy Langford capped the day with a 40-yard touchdown run to send Spartan Stadium into a state of jubilation.
“Our crowd came to play today,” head coach Mark Dantonio said after the game. “They had their game face on from the get-go. I thought they were passionate. They were excited, and it was deafening down there.”
However, the talk of the team remains the defense, who thoroughly bullied the Wolverines in an effort reminiscent of MSU’s 2011 victory over U-M.
“It feels good, anytime you can press the quarterback like we did,” senior linebacker Max Bullough said. “You talk about how it was a physical beatdown out here … And that is a complete game for us.”
Heading into a bye week, the Spartans now turn their sights to Nebraska, who likely will be the last team standing between MSU and a Big Ten Legends Division title and a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 7.
Closing the book on another MSU win against Michigan — the fifth in seven attempts during the Dantonio era — Dantonio said the Spartans take great pride in the program with plenty to look forward to in the coming weeks.
“I can just tell you that we do what we do,” Dantonio said. “There are guys that they have on their football team that we haven’t offered, let’s get that straight right now. There are guys on our football team that they’ve never offered, so it’s what you do with the players that come and what their belief system is. Our guys are believing.”
And for Bullough, the goal remains the same as it ever was.
“You know this will last the rest of my life,” Bullough said. “But we have a few more games left — and the Rose Bowl, that’s gonna last the rest of my life.”