Don’t draw any conclusions after Week 1. Just ask Michigan State.
The Spartans turned it over seven times in a disastrous upset at home to Rutgers to open the season on Oct. 24. Saturday, Michigan State stifled No. 13 Michigan in Ann Arbor in a 27-24 win.
This was the same Michigan team that ran all over Minnesota in its first game of the season. But that running game was not nearly as potent against MSU and a pass defense that kept Minnesota’s offense in check was routinely exposed deep by Michigan State QB Rocky Lombardi.
Lombardi is a QB who has never been mistaken for one of the best in the conference. But his philosophy of throwing deep on the Michigan defense whenever possible worked out well as Spartan receivers like Ricky White were routinely in man coverage.
White was spectacular. The freshman had eight catches for 196 yards and a touchdown and his deep grab off the shoulder of a Michigan defender with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter set up the touchdown that provided Michigan State’s winning margin.
Lombardi threw for 323 yards and three TDs despite completing just 17 of his 32 passes. No other receiver outside of White had more than two catches.
Michigan commits 10 penalties
Michigan’s win over Minnesota was already viewed differently even before kickoff. The Gophers dropped to 0-2 after a 45-44 overtime loss to Minnesota on Friday night. Maryland was blown out at Northwestern in Week 1.
The Wolverines rushed for over 250 yards against the Gophers as the offense was both explosive and efficient. It was neither against Michigan State even though UM’s yardage total may suggest otherwise.
QB Joe Milton couldn’t get the ball downfield like Lombardi, especially after Michigan State went up by 10 with just over five minutes to go. Michigan State was more than happy to let Milton throw short passes to move the Wolverines down the field. And those short passes chewed up a lot of time.
Hassan Haskins’ TD to cut Michigan State’s lead to seven came with just 37 seconds left. MSU recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock.
Milton finished the game 32-of-51 passing for 300 yards. Michigan rushed the ball 34 times for 152 yards and Milton led the team with 59 yards rushing.
Mel Tucker wins in his first game vs. UM
Mel Tucker worked as an assistant coach for Nick Saban in 2015. Now he’s done something that no MSU coach since Saban has done.
Tucker became the first Michigan State coach to beat Michigan in his first game against the Wolverines since Saban in 1995. Tucker arrived at Michigan State after a season at Colorado and looked to have a massive rebuilding project ahead of him after that Week 1 disaster. The rebuilding project is by no means complete. It just may not be as daunting as it looked to start the season.
Jim Harbaugh now 3-3 against Michigan State
While Tucker is 1-0 against Michigan, Jim Harbaugh is now 3-3 against Michigan State in his time with the Wolverines. And it’s fair to ask if Harbaugh’s teams are ever going to truly excel under his watch.
Michigan has been consistently good in Harbaugh’s tenure. But Michigan has never been a great team. And it’s once again left the Big Ten East wide open for Ohio State. Thanks to early-season losses by Penn State and now Michigan, the Buckeyes enter Saturday night’s game against the Nittany Lions a full game ahead of both teams in the loss column.
If Ohio State wins Saturday night, it’ll have a one-game lead on Michigan and a two-game lead on Penn State. In a truncated Big Ten eight-game regular season, that’s a huge advantage.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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