Sunday, April 14, 2024

Spartans rush past Wisconsin in upset

Senior running back DeAndra Cobb sprints out in front of the Wisconsin defense before getting injured in the fourth quarter after a 55-yard touchdown run. The Spartans offense earned 430 rushing yards, and upset the number four ranked Badgers 49-14. —

MSU could have adjusted its offense and planned a way to get around Wisconsin's top-ranked defense.

But the Spartans stuck to their strength, running the ball, and the Badgers could not do anything to stop them. MSU attacked the heart of Wisconsin's defense and won the battle.

MSU (5-5 overall, 4-3 Big Ten) had 430 rushing yards on Saturday in its 49-14 win against No. 4 Wisconsin (9-1, 6-1). The previous high for rushing yards against Wisconsin this season was 147 by Northwestern.

"We said that we were going to run the ball on these guys," junior running back Jason Teague said. "Nobody tries to run it down their throat and that's what we wanted to do."

Wisconsin led the country in scoring defense, giving up an average of only 9.1 points per game going into Saturday. The Badgers were also second in the Big Ten and sixth nationally in rushing defense, giving up 87.3 yards per game on the ground.

"It was unbelievable how they were able to run on that defense," senior linebacker Ronald Stanley said. "They got a lot of star players on (defense). They're outstanding and our offense did an outstanding job running the ball on them, passing the ball. They just had their way with them."

Credit for MSU's surprising rushing total goes to the guys who didn't have a single yard. The MSU offensive line calls themselves the "Mushroom Club" because they relate to the dirty fungus nobody likes to touch.

The offensive line rarely gets recognized, but after the game, several Spartans said the big guys up front were the key to an effective running game. The front five manhandled Wisconsin's notorious defensive line (Sports Illustrated recently dubbed them the country's best defensive line).

Junior center Chris Morris said the Spartans' success running the ball began to wear on Wisconsin mentally.

"It's something that they haven't seen all year," he said. "I think it got them really frustrated. They couldn't stop what we were doing."

In the other locker room, the Badgers could not justify their weak defensive performance.

"We didn't underestimate them at all," Wisconsin strong safety Robert Brooks said. "We knew they were a dangerous team coming in here. We don't know what went wrong. I don't know what went wrong, personally."

MSU had four players rush for 70 yards or more. Redshirt freshman Jehuu Caulcrick led the team with 146 yards, Teague rushed for 112 yards and senior running back DeAndra Cobb had 78 yards. All three running backs had a rushing touchdown.

MSU's quarterbacks, as they have in recent games, also got into the running act. Senior Damon Dowdell, who started for the second straight game, ran for 72 yards on three carries.

When sophomore quarterback Drew Stanton went down with an injured shoulder against Michigan, head coach John L. Smith chose Dowdell to replace Stanton because of his ability to run, like Stanton had done so successfully in past games.

Dowdell made his coach look smart when he ripped a 61-yard run in the first quarter. Dowdell took the snap, faked a hand off and ran up the middle. He juked and made a defender miss before finally being tackled at the 13-yard line.

Dowdell injured his shoulder at some point in the first half and was replaced by Stanton in the second half.

Stanton ran for 21 yards on four carries.


Big Ten standings

School Conference Overall
Michigan 7-0 9-1
Wisconsin 6-1 9-1
Iowa 6-1 8-2
Northwestern 4-3 5-5
MSU 4-3 5-5
Purdue 3-4 6-4
Ohio State 3-4 6-4
Minnesota 3-5 6-5
Indiana 1-6 3-7
Penn State 1-6 3-7
Illinois 1-6 3-7
Source: Big Ten

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