EAST LANSING — Jerel Worthy wore a look of satisfaction as he answered questions after Michigan State beat Michigan for the fourth-straight year. The junior defensive tackle’s green and white track suit covered the tattoo on his left shoulder of a Spartan standing over a scrawny Wolverine.

For the 39th time in the past 42 games, the team that outmuscled the other by winning the rushing battle also won the game.

Michigan State running back Edwin Baker was a one-man wrecking ball, as the Spartans kept their ground game mostly to the perimeter where Michigan is weakest — away from its powerful front-seven. Baker alone had twice as many rushing yards (167) as the Wolverines did (82).

“They were definitely more physical,” said redshirt junior safety Jordan Kovacs. “They pounded us. They beat us up.”

Before the pounding, Michigan had allowed just two sacks all season and ran for 257 yards per game. Michigan State sacked junior quarterback Denard Robinson and sophomore quarterback Devin Gardner a combined seven times, often overloading one side on blitzes. Then when the Spartans didn’t blitz, they had created the illusion that they were coming, confusing the Michigan quarterback in the process.

Worthy also said that by the second half, they had timed Michigan’s snap count. Due to the crowd noise, the Wolverines had to resort to a simple snap call and the Spartans knew once fifth-year center Dave Molk looked between his legs, then picked his head up, the ball was coming.

The best example of Michigan State’s dominance came on the game-deciding play with less than seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. Michigan had the ball in the redzone, facing a 4th-and-1, down by a touchdown. The Wolverines called a play-action. Michigan State called a cornerback blitz and sacked Robinson to end the threat.

“I was a little surprised (Michigan didn’t run the ball there),” Worthy said. “But you have to understand, when the defensive line is changing the line of scrimmage and pushing them back like how we did in the second half, you’ve got to understand: they’ve got to do something. They’ve got to try to figure out a way to counteract it.”

Worthy flashed a knowing smile. Michigan had wanted nothing to do with him.

PICK SIX TRICKS: Isaiah Lewis could’ve sprinted to the endzone, handed the ball to the officials and celebrated with his teammates. Instead, as he waltzed in for the game-icing touchdown Saturday — a interception return for a touchdown with less than five minutes left in the game — Lewis looked back, holding the ball out towards Denard Robinson as he chased Lewis from behind.

Lewis sure was celebrating, but was it a taunt?

“No, just me showing my emotion,” Lewis said. “That’s how I play. I like to celebrate. I didn’t mean anything bad about it. I’m a good sportsman, a good guy. I was just out here celebrating.”

“(But) I thought about it like, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have done that.’ I was hoping they wouldn’t throw a flag on it. I was out there celebrating. I was just happy to make the play. I didn’t mean anything bad.

Under a new NCAA rule, Lewis’s touchdown could have been taken off the board because he started to celebrate before he got to the endzone. The ball would’ve been placed at the spot where he started celebrating, which was inside the five-yard line, so the Wolverines still would have been hard-pressed to prevent a touchdown.

Michigan was probably more worried about the play of Robinson, considering how badly he looked on the play. With the Wolverines in a five-wide receiver set, Michigan State blitzed up the middle.

“I was just reading the quarterback’s eyes,” Lewis said. “Wherever he was going, that’s where I was going. He looked over here, kinda stared the receiver down. Just gave him a little pressure and he wanted to get rid of the ball before he got hit. He threw a wobbly ball up, kinda floated there a little bit and I took advantage of it.

“The whole game we were talking about it on the sidelines, like, (defensive backs), ‘This guy’s going to throw it up. He’s going to give us a chance to get an interception. Anybody that wants that chance, it’s going to come up there. That time is going to happen.’ It was just a matter of time.”

TACKLING DUMMIES: For the second-straight week, the Michigan defense was spread out and forced to play on the perimeter. Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said last week he was worried teams would do that and potentially exploit when he deemed as a weakness.

Like Northwestern, Michigan State ran off-tackle running plays to the outside, neutralizing Michigan’s active front-seven, forcing them to get off blocks or someone in the secondary to make a play. Teams also have fallen in love with the screen pass and it’s not by accident.

“I felt like, we’d go out there, it’s one-on-one,” said Michigan State wide receiver Keyshawn Martin.

“We were aware that (Michigan’s cornerbacks) are capable of missing tackles and we have players capable of making people miss.”

Redshirt junior cornerback J.T. Floyd and fifth-year senior cornerback Troy Woolfolk are both considered sub-par tacklers and neither freshman Blake Countess nor sophomore Courtney Avery are sure-bets taking down a player one-on-one.

Twice with the ball in the redzone in the third quarter, Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins threw screen passes to Martin. In the first instance, on a 3rd-and-long, he broke a tackle immediately then withstood another as it knocked him into the endzone.

Entering the fourth quarter, Martin’s two touchdowns handed the Spartans a comfortable 21-7 lead.

WHITE ON WHITE: Wearing their Pro Combat Nike jerseys, complete with a unique gold helmet, gold number and gold cleats, Michigan State hardly looked like Michigan State when it took the field.

Michigan hardly looked like Michigan, either.

The Wolverines warmed up in their normal road uniforms, only to return to the locker room before kickoff to find new threads waiting for them.


Each player had white pants and white jerseys — the road version of the “Legacy” jerseys Michigan wore for its Under the Lights game against Notre Dame — complete with maize shoulders with blue stripes.

The players went nuts when they saw the uniforms in their lockers.

Not since the 1974-75 seasons has a Michigan team worn white-on-white road uniforms. And just like when Hoke decided to put the players’ numbers on the side of their helmet starting with the Minnesota game, this change with a nod to history was well received. It was Hoke’s way of paying homage to the former players who played in the rivalry, and it gave his current players a treat.

“Our players really enjoyed the uniforms from the night game with Notre Dame so we decided to surprise them and the country,” Hoke said.

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