BY IAN ROBINSON
Daily Sports Editor
Published October 25, 2008
Before leaving Beaver Stadium last weekend, junior defensive end Brandon Graham guaranteed Michigan would beat the Spartans.
He had never lost to Michigan State as Wolverine and didn’t want to know what it felt like.
But the Spartans closed the game with 21 unanswered points to beat Michigan 35-21 in front of 110,146 at Michigan Stadium. It is Michigan’s fourth straight loss.
The loss ends the Wolverines’ six-game winning streak against Michigan State. The Spartans' last win in the series was in 2001, when Michigan State running back T.J. Duckett caught the game-winning touchdown on the last play of the game. The Spartans haven’t won in Ann Arbor since 1990 when Wolverine wide receiver Desmond Howard fell on a two-point conversion attempt and Michigan State won 28-27.
Michigan State took the lead on a three-yard touchdown run by Javon Ringer with 6:59 remaining to make the score 35-21. It was his second touchdown of the day and 16th on the season. Ringer finished the game with 194 rushing yards on 37 carries.
Redshirt freshman Steven Threet threw an interception on Michigan’s next play. A seven-yard touchdown pass from Brian Hoyer to Josh Rouse on the ensuing possession, after the Spartans had converted on a fourth and one, put the game out of reach for the Wolverines.
With the loss, Michigan (1-3 Big Ten, 2-6 overall) needs to win the rest of its games to become bowl eligible. Failing to make a bowl would snap a nation-best, 33-year streak of bowl appearances. This is Michigan’s worst record through eight games since 1962. That year, the Wolverines finished 2-7 and lost to Michigan State 28-0.
The Spartans (4-1, 7-2) tied the game at 21 on a four-yard touchdown pass from Hoyer to Charlie Gantt. It capped an eight-play, 63-yard drive, highlighted by a 44-yard pass from Hoyer to Mark Dell on third and 12 that put Michigan State at the Michigan five-yard line.
After exchanging three and outs to start the second half, the Wolverines went 66 yards in six plays for a touchdown to give them a 21-14 advantage. Threet scored on a two-yard run for his second rushing touchdown of the season. A 29-yard pass over the middle from Threet to sophomore wide receiver Toney Clemons and a 20-yard run by junior running back Brandon Minor put Michigan deep in the red zone.
Entering the game, many wondered whether the Wolverines would be able to contain Ringer, the conference’s rushing leader. And for the first 27 minutes, they appeared as if they had, holding him to 45 yards on 16 carries.
Then, Ringer gave the Spartans the lead with just over a minute remaining in the half. He took a carry to the left side of the line, broke outside and went almost untouched to the end zone. The 64-yard run was his longest of the season.
But the Spartans couldn’t hold the lead as Michigan quickly marched down the field and scored on a four-play, 65-yard touchdown drive, capped by Minor’s two-yard scoring run to tie the game. Minor finished the game as Michigan’s leading rusher with 55 yards on 15 carries. Freshman Sam McGuffie, who had been Michigan’s leading running back in every game until last week against Penn State, left the game early with a concussion.
Aside from the final two minutes, the second quarter featured sloppy play. Michigan State’s typically reliable kicker, Brett Swenson, missed two field goals in the quarter. One, a 50-yard attempt, fell short. Senior linebacker John Thompson blocked the other, a 32-yard try. He missed a third field goal in the second half. Before today, he missed just one on the season.
Threet threw an interception in the second quarter when he underthrew redshirt sophomore Mark Moundros deep down the sideline.
The Spartans were moving the ball well to begin the second quarter, covering 49 yards in seven plays until redshirt sophomore linebacker Jonas Mouton hit Spartan running back Andre Anderson and forced a fumble that Michigan recovered. The Wolverines went three-and-out on its next series. Just as Michigan did early in the quarter, neither team could take advantage of the miscues until Ringer’s touchdown run.
The game was tied 7-7 after one quarter, even though Michigan State held a 69-yard advantage in total yards. The Wolverines overcame the yardage deficit by forcing a Spartan fumble at the Michigan State 18-yard line late in the quarter to set up a touchdown.
Threet connected with Minor on a 19-yard touchdown pass that was originally ruled incomplete but was overturned after review. It appeared Minor had possession before his foot landed on the pylon. It was Minor’s second receiving touchdown and sixth overall on the season.
Michigan State scored a touchdown on its first possession when Hoyer connected with Blair White on a 61-yard pass just more than three minutes into the game. White caught the slant pass on third and five and had enough for a first down. Junior free safety Stevie Brown missed a tackle, giving White an open lane to the end zone.
The Wolverines will travel to West Lafayette next weekend to take on Purdue.
For full coverage of this weekend's game, read SportsMonday.