Friday, November 27, 2020

FINAL: Michigan State stuns rival Michigan, 27-24

October 31, 2020
<p>Running back Connor Heyward (11) scores the game-winning touchdown for Michigan State in Ann Arbor, MI on Oct. 31, 2020.</p>

Running back Connor Heyward (11) scores the game-winning touchdown for Michigan State in Ann Arbor, MI on Oct. 31, 2020.

Photo by Alyte Katilius | The State News

Michigan State quarterback Rocky Lombardi told the media this Tuesday that he thought the point spread was much larger than it should have been.

After a mistake riddled game last Saturday, Michigan State stunned their rival Michigan, winning 27-24 on Saturday.

Michigan State came out the gates early in a similar fashion to last year’s matchup in Ann Arbor. True freshman Jordon Simmons got the drive moving with a 28 yard run, and then freshman wide receiver Ricky White, who had a breakout day for the Spartans, finished it with a nice catch off of a laser throw from Rocky Lombardi, to take a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.

Michigan on the following drive would match the Spartans touchdown as Blake Corum flashed by defenders to get into the end zone.

White would finish the game with 8 catches for 196 yards, and one touchdown.

The pass interference penalties for Michigan and the passing game for Michigan State caused problems for U of M defensive coordinator Don Brown’s secondary all day long. Michigan State continued to try the Michigan secondary deep throughout the game, including a deep pass from Lombardi to his speedy wide receiver Jalen Nailor for a 53 yard gain on the first play of the drive.

Nailor would get the ball again on a jet sweep to the outside, setting the Spartans up for a screen pass touchdown to running back Connor Heyward, giving Michigan State a 14-7 lead with 9:40 left to go in the second half.

The Michigan State defensive line was able to create some serious pressure for Michigan quarterback Joe Milton in the first half as Jacub Panasiuk and Noah Harvey continued to wreak havoc for the Michigan offensive line. Rushing yards were also hard to come by for Michigan in the first half as the Spartans loaded the box to stop the run.

In response, Michigan made adjustments to get the ball out of Milton’s hands quickly and to the outside, forcing Michigan State’s secondary to make open field tackles.

The secondary for Michigan State struggled with that in the second quarter as Michigan picked apart the Spartans' defense on their next scoring drive. After Milton’s throw to Giles Jackson for 20 yards, running back Hassan Haskins would gash the Spartans for 35 total rushing yards on the drive to cut the lead to 14-10. 

Michigan State linebacker Antjuan Simmons would prevent an easy score for the Wolverines as he jumped and batted a ball out of the air on third and goal.

Michigan State continued their momentum into the second half, forcing a quick three and out on defense.

Michigan State’s first drive on offense started with another deep shot to White to set the Spartans up inside the 20. Michigan would tighten their coverage in the red zone and hold the Spartans to a field goal.

Then the mistakes that we saw last week returned for the Spartans.

On second and 10, Shakur Brown made a great read and hit Jackson at the line of scrimmage. Brown taunted Jackson by standing over him after the play. That penalty extended the drive for the Wolverines and resulted in the second touchdown from Corum to tie the game at 17.

The lapses in the Michigan secondary would continue to afflict the Wolverines. On the following drive, Lombardi would find White and Nailor for back-to-back completions of over 15 yards to set up another field goal for Matt Coghlin, who would hit a career long 51-yard long field goal to take the lead back.

Michigan State started their next drive backed up on their own endzone but decided to keep testing a secondary that showed holes all day. Lombardi would find White to give the Spartans breathing room with a 40-yard gain going into a crucial fourth quarter.

The defenses for both teams tightened in the fourth quarter. After marching down the field, the Spartans would be held for another field goal, but Coghlin could not hit this time from 40 yards out.

Michigan State late in the fourth quarter after consecutive stops would get right back to their favorite target of the day in White. His two catches for a combined 46 yards would set up the offense in the redzone. 

With 5:11 left, Lombardi found Heyward on the screen. He spun and juked his way in the endzone to put the Spartans up two scores, 27-17.

After throwing the ball all day, Lombardi finished with 323 yards, 3 touchdowns with 17 completions on 32 attempts.

Michigan State will look to continue this momentum next week at Iowa where they’ll look to improve above .500 on the season.

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