The Michigan football team has turned its attention to Nebraska, but for many people, that loss to Michigan State is going to hurt for a long time. So, let’s examine exactly why it’s going to hurt.
How bad was it?
Obviously a 29-6 loss is pretty disheartening, especially considering the Wolverines had two weeks to prepare for this game. The -48 rushing yards have been mentioned numerous times, as they should. However, considering how Michigan says it relies upon the run game to open up the passing game, the Wolverines showed they didn’t need the run game to open up the airways against the Spartans.
Quarterback Devin Gardner managed to do quite well there, though the Wolverines failed to reach the end zone. The redshirt junior threw for 210 yards, which is the second best any QB has done against the Spartans this season (Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock threw for 241 yards).
But the rest of Michigan’s stats fell way short of the Spartan defense’s averages this season (or in the case of sacks, greatly exceeded them). Numbers can’t always tell the whole story, but these paint a pretty accurate picture.
MSU defense average | Michigan vs. MSU
Yards per game: 210.2 | 168
Rushing yards: 43.4 | -48
Yards per rush: 1.6 | -1.7
Passing yards: 166.8 | 216
Yards per attempt: 4.9 | 7.2
Points scored: 11.6 | 6
Sacks per game: 2.8 | 7
Gardner completed 14 of 27 passes with one interception. The biggest surprise in the Wolverines’ passing game was redshirt freshman Jehu Chesson. He hadn’t caught more than a single pass since the Minnesota game (Oct. 5), but Chesson recorded three key catches for a team-high 82 yards. His average of 27.3 yards per catch made him the day’s most efficient receiver.
Jeremy Gallon continues to be Gardner’s security blanket as showcased by the fact that on three separate occasions on the game’s opening drive, Gardner went to Gallon. He finished the day with five receptions for 67 yards (13.4 yards per catch) and Devin Funchess, who spent most of the latter parts of the game with his hand on the ground, recorded six catches for 65 yards (10.8 yards per catch).
Of Gardner’s 13 incompletions, five each were targeted to Funchess and Gallon, one was thrown to Jeremy Jackson and two were thrown away. But the fact that Funchess was targeted as much (and probably could’ve been targeted even more) against the Spartans as Gallon shows his drastic improvement in the short time span that he has played wide receiver.
Down and distance
The Wolverines put themselves in some pretty terrible situations on the field due to some silly penalties, the seven sacks and their inability to get offensive momentum.
In fact, statistically, the Wolverines would’ve been better off to just forgo the first two downs in order to get a third-and-10. That would’ve put them in a better spot than Michigan did on its usual first and second downs against the Spartans.
Michigan’s averages: second-and-10, third-and-11, fourth-and-18.
Slow and steady wins the rivalry
Since 2004, Michigan scored fewer points against the Spartans than it did in the previous season. And, since Michigan State hired Mark Dantonio, the Wolverines’ scoring total has dropped 22 points and the Spartans have owned a 5-2 record against Michigan.
2013: 6 points (MSU wins, 29-6)
2012: 12 points (Michigan wins, 12-10)
2011: 14 points (MSU wins, 28-14)
2010: 17 points (MSU wins, 34-17)
2009: 20 points (MSU wins, 26-20)
2008: 21 points (MSU wins, 35-21)
2007: 28 points (Michigan wins, 28-24)
2006: 31 points (Michigan wins, 31-13)
2005: 34 points (Michigan wins, 34-31)
2004: 45 points (Michigan wins, 45-37)