EAST LANSING — There was a bit of a show before the Michigan football team’s 21-7 win over No. 24 Michigan State.
The details of it, however, are unclear.
The Spartans did their usual pregame tradition, the “Spartan Walk,” in which each member of the team links arms and walks the length of the field.
Senior safety Tyree Kinnel said Michigan State was late, and that the Wolverines had been given the go-ahead to warmup on the field.
So when the Spartans began their walk, they ran into fifth-year senior defensive tackle Lawrence Marshall, junior corner Lavert Hill and junior linebacker Devin Bush. Neither side backed down.
Michigan says Marshall was clotheslined and Hill had his headphones ripped off. Coach Jim Harbaugh says Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio was walking behind the team, smiling. Dantonio says that’s not true.
It all culminated in Bush, standing on the midfield logo at Spartan Stadium and stomping repeatedly on the log, leaving a large, noticable mark in the middle of it..
“I just heard about it, I didn’t see it,” Harbaugh said. “… Total bush league. Apparently, Coach Dantonio was five yards behind and all smiling, so, yeah, I think it’s bush league. That’s my impression of it. But our guys, they didn’t blink. They didn’t come here to back down or get intimidated by anybody.”
Added Bush: “It was pure emotion. I did what I did, and, you know, I can’t take it back, so it is what it is.”
However you want to describe the pregame antics, and however you want to describe how it affected the game, the results speak for themselves. The Wolverines involved in the skirmish were all defenders, and the defense showed out.
Michigan held the Spartans to 94 total yards. Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke went 5-for-25, throwing for just 66 yards. The Spartans went 0-for-12 on third-down conversions. They averaged just 1.8 yards per play, and they possessed the ball for 18:57, compared to the Wolverines, who held it for 41:03.
The list goes on and on.
“Our defense was lights-out today,” Harbaugh added. “Holding an opponent to 91 yards of total offense, and they were 0-for-12 on third-down conversions. I mean, that’s the kind of statistics you dream, as a dream game.”
The defense was needed, too. For much of the afternoon, Michigan could get nothing going on offense. It squandered opportunities, and in the second half, it turned the ball over.
In fact, the only time Michigan State scored was after junior running back Chris Evans coughed up the ball and the Spartans recovered on the 7-yard line.
The Wolverines did make things interesting for themselves at the end of the game, on what turned out to be Michigan State’s final drive. The possession began with 2:38 left, and on the first four plays of the drive, Michigan committed a penalty, giving the Spartans some life and, eventually, the ball on the Wolverines’ 24-yard line.
The next play, Bush screamed through the offensive line and sacked Michigan State backup quarterback Rocky Lombardi. The play after that, junior defensive tackle Michael Dwumfour did the same. Just like that, any hopes the Spartans had of getting back into things were snuffed out, once and for all.
When the game ended, Michigan grabbed the Paul Bunyan Trophy and paraded around the field. Bush did a few backflips.
It culminated in the Wolverines jumping up and down, holding the trophy above their heads on the midfield logo, the same spot Bush made his statement just a few hours earlier.
“I mean, we won,” Bush said. “So, I mean, we’re gonna celebrate our win. We’re taking Paul home, and we let everybody know that.”