Michigan State 26, Michigan 20: Where the clouds opened up and logic took an off day

Everyday, Brian Cook and Matt Hinton wage a war against the overblown rhetoric which is such a huge part of sports writing and reporting. Common on MGo and Dr. Sat (and many other sites) is snarky, stat based writing with nary a glance at flowery analogies. Of course this pattern is a reaction against ESPN turning everything into a human interest story.

However, Saturday's showdown in East Lansing produced enough corny reporting hooks and storybook lines to fill a Mitch Albom column. I observed:

  • The clouds painting an almost surreal picture as the sideways rain poured down on Forcier's head while the true frosh led Michigan on a game tying 91 yard drive.
  • Dantonio channeling his inner Tressel, becoming overly conservative as the game wore on and allowing the Wolverines to mount a comeback.
  • The sun reappearing just as freshmen Larry Caper broke two tackles and stumbled heroically into the end zone, signifying the Spartans possible resurgence.

You have to know, this game was every Michigan fans nightmare for 3 1/2 quarters. With four and a half minutes left in the game, the Wolverines had accumulated 110 total yards. EVERYONE was bad. The wide receivers dropped 5 balls, Forcier picked up another mindless unintentional grounding penalty while being generally ineffective, the offensive line opened no holes, and the running backs ran for 15 yards.

There was no reason for Michigan to be in this game. The gashing Michigan run game was shut down early and revisited rarely after.

...

Dantonio was being savaged from the second quarter on as the Spartan fans griped constantly about the overly conservative playcalling. It felt like every time the Spartans got into a third and short, a predictable run up the middle would follow for no gain. Here are the statistics for the Spartan's third and fourth down's:

8-18 Third Down Efficiency, 1-2 Fourth Down Efficiency

Out of the 20 3rd/4th down plays, 14 were pass plays, while 6 were run plays.

This doesn't sound abnormally conservative, but the key is below:

3rd and 1 at MICH 7...Glenn Winston rush for a loss of 1 yard to the Mich 8.

3rd and 1 at MICH 4...Glenn Winston rush for a loss of 1 yard to the Mich 5.

3rd and 2 at MSU 40...Larry Caper rush for a loss of 1 yard to the MchSt 39.

Dantonio, after watching both Nichol and Cousins succeed early throwing on third down, ran plays up the gut unsuccessfully late in the game. This overly conservative approach probably helped Michigan come back.

...

Speaking of the thrilling comeback, Forcier showed some balls of steel during the 91 yard drive. The freshmen scrambled all over the suddenly sopping wet field, running for thirty yards and tossing darts. When Tate hit a perfect slant to Roundtree for the tie, the east end zone become stunningly quite, save for the faint noise of "The Victors" wafting over from the Maize and Blue section.

...

You, me, Harry Potter, and the fat kid from What's Happenin' have no idea which quarterback will play more next week against Illinois. Will it be Cousins, whose accuracy is unquestioned, yet was visibly limping on the sideline? Will Nichol get increased PT against a lackluster Illinois team?

MSU's quarterbacks were 20-29 for 215 yards and a couple of picks that weren't Cousins' fault (tipped ball, hit while throwing). The real key was their scrambling, a trait that no one knew Cousins' really possessed.

Of course their decent stats might really be attached to the fact that Michigan's pass defense is so porous.

...

How big of a win was this for Dantonio? Yesterday the LSJ claimed this was the biggest game of his tenure as Spartan head coach...People in the crowd were claiming this win allows him to keep the head coaching job...

Hilary recounts Wisconsin's John Clay-infused victory here.

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