EAST LANSING – The Michigan State football team took the field Saturday night looking to get back on course against the No. 2 ranked Michigan Wolverines, in a season where things have gotten off course. The Spartans were riding a four game losing streak, including coming off a late-game loss to Rutgers last week. Facing their biggest rival in a primetime matchup, if there was ever a time to leave everything on the field, this was it. Despite the occasion, MSU couldn’t make the moment count and got beaten by their rival, 49-0.
MSU had a chance to make a statement stop on the first drive of the game when Michigan faced a third-and-14 inside their own territory. However, J.J. McCarthy’s 21-yard pass to A.J. Barner picked up the first down and nullified the threat. Michigan made the most of that conversion, driving the rest of the way down the field to open the scoring with a 1-yard touchdown run from Blake Corum.
Katin Houser went to work on offense trying to answer Michigan’s touchdown. The drive started out promisingly enough, a 17-yard pass to Nate Carter put some momentum MSU’s way. Then, facing fourth-and-2 on the 50-yard line, Carter was stopped a yard short, giving Michigan the ball back with a short field.
On the ensuing drive, MSU again had chances to stop the Michigan attack. Facing third-and-13, a screen pass to Donovan Edwards extended the drive. The Wolverines would score one play later on a 25-yard touchdown pass to Roman Wilson, putting the Spartans in an early 14-0 hole. They would respond with a three-and-out in which they gained zero yards.
Things only got worse in the second quarter for MSU. McCarthy picked up two more touchdown passes in the quarter, two 22-yarders to Colston Loveland, making it 28-0. Michigan could’ve easily made it 35-0 if not for a penalty committed by Edwards which carried a 10-second run-off and ended the half.
Meanwhile, the Spartan offense couldn’t get anything going. At the end of the half, MSU had tallied 51 total net yards–26 of which came on the first drive of the game, compared to Michigan’s 339. MSU had achieved two first downs in the entire half. On the other side of the ball, it took until midway through the second quarter, Michigan’s fourth drive of the game, for a Wolverine drive to end in anything but a touchdown.
J.J. McCarthy had been the star of the game up to this point. He went 20-26, throwing for 276 yards and four touchdowns, and it was only halftime.
The plummet continued for MSU when the offense took the field to open the second half. After crossing the 50-yard line, the Spartans faced fourth-and-7. On a miscommunication between him and Tre Mosley, Houser’s pass went right into the arms of Michigan’s Mike Sainristil, who took the intercepted ball 72 yards for a touchdown. Making the bad play worse for the Spartans was the fact that offensive lineman Spencer Brown earned himself an ejection for a personal foul during the runback. The frustration was clearly getting to the MSU players.
With five minutes left in the third quarter with the score at 42-0, Michigan let off the gas. Jack Tuttle came off the bench to take over at quarterback. Katin Houser’s night was done midway through the fourth. He left the game having completed 12 of 22 passes for 101 yards with an interception. Taking over at quarterback was freshman Sam Leavitt.
Leavitt ended up leading MSU to their best drive of the game. Taking the ball all the way to Michigan’s 34-yard line, he faced fourth-and-15. With nothing to lose, MSU went for it, and Leavitt’s pass to Brennan Parachek was just one yard short, giving the ball back to the Wolverines. Leavitt’s only other drive ended with an interception to Michigan’s Ja’Den McBurrows.
The final meaningful action of the game was a 6-yard touchdown run by Alex Orji with eight seconds left, making the final score 49-0.
This game stands as the first time MSU has been shut out by Michigan since 2000, and the worst loss the Spartans have suffered to their rival since 1947.
Coach Harlon Barnett put it simply.
“We got our butts kicked,” Barnett said. “I don’t like excuses. We have to play better.”
Michigan State will travel to Minnesota to take on the Golden Gophers next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on Big Ten Network.