EAST LANSING – After a six-yard run late in the second quarter, Mike Hart got up from the pile and immediately limped to the Michigan sideline.
But that wasn’t the end to the senior captain’s influence on the game.
The Heisman hopeful had already given the Wolverines a boost in the first half with two 20-plus yard runs, and when he returned, he recovered a key fumble late in the fourth quarter.
Seeing his first game action since injuring his ankle against Purdue, Hart said the gameplan called for him to come in and out of the game, instead of carrying the backfield workload.
“It feels a lot better than when I first hurt it,” Hart said. “Like I said, it’s not like I injured
myself more today, it just takes time.”
Still, to Michigan fans watching Hart favor his injured ankle on the way to sideline, seeing him return seemed unlikely if not improbable.
Hart finished the day with just 15 carries, the lowest of any game he’s played this season, but that didn’t stop him from breaking the century mark for the eighth time this season.
Hart ran for 110 yards, and, in the first quarter, he even showed some flashes of speed when he broke off a 37-yard run down the sideline to set up the Wolverines’ first score.
More important, he said he’s no longer injured, and his teammates believe he’ll finish the year on the field, not the sidelines.
“He played through a lot of pain and got some great runs in there,” senior quarterback Chad Henne said. “He’ll be back next week, believe me. I know he’s in a little bit of pain, but he has a week to recoup and he’ll be back.”
Fresh faces in new places: Saturday saw another parade of reserve players on the field during key situations because of another round of injuries.
Starting safety Brandent Englemon left the game with an undisclosed injury in the third quarter, and while he was on the sideline, both fifth-year senior Anton Campbell and sophomore Stevie Brown stepped into the vacated spot.
Campbell, who moved to safety after redshirting his freshman season, played in the goalline defense. Brown played the rest of the snaps Englemon missed.
Englemon said he’ll be back next week, but another partial injury almost cost the Wolverines the game.
On Michigan’s first play after Michigan State extended its lead to 10, Henne heard his ankle crackle when right tackle Stephen Schilling stepped on it. Henne could barely make it back to the huddle, and backup Ryan Mallett ran onto the field to replace him.
Mallett’s first and only play in the game was saved by Hart, who made the play’s first mistake. Hart didn’t see the Spartan blitz off the left edge, and when Mallett was hit, the freshman signal caller lost the ball. It bounced straight to Hart, who gained a first down on the ensuing run.
“I saw him get sacked because I didn’t scan all the way back the way I was supposed to (during the play), so I wanted to get my man and he got hit,” Hart said. “The ball dropped on the ground so I picked it up.”
Henne returned to the game on the next play, and after the game he said he is at 80 percent.
Notes: With 211 passing yards on Saturday, Henne is now just nine yards away from breaking the Michigan career passing yards record. Former quarterback John Navarre currently holds the record with 9,254. . Wide receiver Mario Manningham has now caught a touchdown pass and gained more than 100 yards in a game for the fifth straight time against a Big Ten team. . Michigan has now won 67 games in the 100 years the rivalry has existed. . The Michigan seniors have never lost to Michigan State in their careers as Wolverines, and Michigan holds a six-game winning streak against the Spartans. ,