When your team loses more yards to penalties than it gains rushing, you’re putting yourself in a tough position to win.
And Michigan State did just that Saturday.
The Spartans were penalized 11 times for 87 yards and ran the ball 26 times for just 60 yards.
“I think that’s one of the things you talk about when you play good football teams you can’t afford to do,” Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton said. “We can’t put ourselves in situations like that. I’m responsible for the offense and trying to get them the play.”
Whenever Michigan State started rolling, a yellow flag always seemed to fall to the field.
The frustration began with Michigan’s first drive of the game. On third-and-six, quarterback Chad Henne pulled back off center to check off, and Michigan State’s Ogemi Nwagbuo, who thought the ball had been snapped, jumped across the line. The Spartans registered two more offsides penalties later in the game.
And just like that, the Wolverines had a more-than-manageable third-and-one. The Michigan offense took full advantage when Henne threw to Steve Breaston in the left flat for 10 yards and a Michigan first down.
The Wolverines went on to score on that possession, and Demond Williams was flagged for a personal foul after a Garrett Rivas extra point. The penalty allowed Michigan to kick off from the 50 yard line.
“Our kids were wanting,” Michigan State coach John L. Smith said. “We get two roughing penalties, and that guy’s not even supposed to be coming. The block is not designed to come from there, but they’re wanting to play.”
The Spartans used just about every method possible to stem their chance of a comeback. A late hit on Manningham on a third-and-eight gave the Wolverines a first down in the third quarter. In the fourth, Williams ran into Michigan punter Zoltan Mesko, allowing the sophomore an opportunity to boom a 64-yard punt, erasing the 41-yard punt on his first attempt.
“If you really look at it, that killed us,” Sir Darean Adams said. “All the dumb penalties we made really killed us. That’s us as players. There’s nothing to say, that’s the players. Coach isn’t going to tell you to hit a player in the back.”
Obi’s one: It must have been a flashback.
For one play, fullback Obi Oluigbo returned to his original position at Michigan: linebacker.
When Breaston took the opening kickoff of the second half, he didn’t expect one of his teammates would be the one to take him down.
But Oluigbo accidentally hit Breaston while trying to set up a block and knocked him to the turf.
“I was going full-speed,” Breaston said. “Actually, he messed up my face mask. I had to get a whole new helmet – that’s how hard the hit was.”
The new Tiger Stadium: With just under seven minutes left in the game, a rousing cheer rose into the sky from the 111,349 sitting in the Big House.
But it wasn’t for the play on the field.
Instead, the fans reacted to an announcement over the public address system. The Detroit Tigers had beaten the New York Yankees 8-3 to move into the American League Championship Series.
“Well, they announced it (the Tigers score) about 45 times,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “I thought for a while I was at Tiger Stadium. The only time it bothered me was when we took over the ball out there, and I thought we were going to get a penalty for illegal motion.”
Even though Carr was less than pleased about the continual announcements, he still made a point to state his allegiances when it comes to the playoffs.
“Hey, trust me, I’ve been a lifelong Tiger fan, and Jim Leyland is doing a great job,” Carr said. “That team is doing a great job. It’s great for this state and the Tiger organization. That’s exciting.”
Injury report: Tight end Tyler Ecker remains day-to-day. He was seen standing on the sideline with crutches during the game. He was originally injured during the first play in last week’s contest against Minnesota.
Meanwhile, cornerback Morgan Trent returned to the field. Following the Wisconsin game, Trent had surgery on his left thumb after falling on it awkwardly. Even though Trent was cleared to play against Minnesota, Carr held him out because he had missed too much practice. On Saturday, the redshirt sophomore had three tackles.
“It definitely felt good to get back out there,” Trent said. “I wish I could’ve played last week, but my injury didn’t let me. It felt good to come out and play against Michigan State.”
Junior running back Mike Hart left the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury. He had the ankle taped and would have gone back in if not for the lopsided score.
Wide receiver Mario Manningham left in the second half and was seen on the sidelines in the fourth quarter with ice taped over his knee.