EAST LANSING – The Michigan State men’s soccer team barely seemed to notice the downpour as the Spartans swarmed Old College Field after their 5-0 victory Sunday.

The Wolverines and their traveling fans, however, felt every miserable drop.

Coming off a huge 1-0 win over No. 3 Notre Dame Wednesday, unranked Michigan State (2-1-1 Big Ten, 9-1-2 overall) was on a roll. For No. 21 Michigan, the rivalry game was the last of a grueling midseason swing. The Wolverines (0-2-1, 8-4-1) had played three of their last four games on the road and had won just one.

The Spartans put Michigan in a hole almost immediately.

At 2:59, a yellow card by junior goalkeeper Patrick Sperry gave Michigan State forward Doug DeMartin a penalty kick. Sperry stretched himself to his full height, arms extended, ready to leap. But as he dove to his left, DeMartin shot right and scored.

“It makes a huge difference when that happens,” junior forward Jake Stacy said. “Going down a goal (three) minutes into the game on a questionable PK – if that doesn’t happen, who knows what could happen.”

The Wolverines never recovered. Though they attacked the Spartan goal repeatedly, all their efforts were rebuffed by fifth-year senior goalkeeper Chris Austin and his defenders. The Michigan offense was also without the creative genius of sophomore forward Mauro Fuzetti because of an injury, which might have helped break through the Spartan line.

In the 32nd minute, sophomore defender Julian Robles took a red card in the penalty area. In just one second, Michigan was dealt several heavy blows.

DeMartin got another penalty kick, and once again, he didn’t miss, putting the Spartans up 2-0. Robles was lost for the game, forcing the Wolverines to play a man down for 58 minutes.

Defender Michael Holody, a co-captain and leader of Michigan’s defense, was already sitting out the game thanks to a red card in the loss to St. John’s. Robles will have to miss Wednesday’s game against Bowling Green.

“I’m really perplexed by it,” Michigan coach Steve Burns said of the numerous cards. “In all my years of coaching, I’ve not seen the kinds of cards that we’re getting. I think we are a disciplined team. Unfortunately, we’ve got to be able to bounce back and show our resiliency in the face of what we perceived as questionable calls.”

Michigan finished the game with three yellow cards and a red.

While the Wolverines could take some satisfaction from the first half – the only two shots to make it past Sperry were penalty kicks – the second half was nearly all Michigan State. Three times Spartan forwards shed Wolverine defenders and bested Sperry at the goal mouth, building an insurmountable 5-0 lead.

With about 10 minutes left, Michigan finally got a penalty kick of its own. Stacy sent the ball scorching toward the left corner – where it bounced off the post.

While the Spartans remained in the middle of the pitch sharing the victory with their fans, most of the Wolverines couldn’t leave Old College Field fast enough. On Wednesday, they will return home for a match against Bowling Green, and, they hope, the birth of a winning streak like the one that opened their season.

But like every opponent since the start of Big Ten play, Bowling Green won’t make it easy.

“They’ve been through their learning curve and now they have an upperclassman-dominated team,” Burns said of the Falcons. “They’re probably thinking this is a good time to kick Michigan while they’re down.”

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