The Michigan Wolverines finally have its hands on the Paul Bunyan Trophy thanks to the U-M defense and an impressive turnover on downs late in the fourth quarter.
The Wolverines (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) traveled to East Lansing on Saturday and took care of business against the Michigan State Spartans, winning 30-17. While the Spartans started strong thanks to the legs of L.J. Scott, there was too much offensive inconsistency to truly make this a game until the fourth quarter.
In the second half, the Spartans (2-6, 0-6 Big Ten) changed quarterbacks for the second time and Brian Lewerke led the Spartans on a five play drive resulting in a 20 yard touchdown to Monty Maderis, making the score 30-17 late in the fourth quarter.
On the next position, the Wolverines converted one first down but couldn't do it a second time and ended up punting with four minutes left, leaving the Spartans with a long field to contend with. A long quarterback scramble by Lewerke sparked a long drive late in the fourth quarter that brought the Spartans into the redzone.
With the U-M defense reeling on the drive, it had been in the same position before and stepped up when it counted. On fourth down, Jabrill Peppers crashed in and sacked Lewerke to turn the ball over on downs.
As it had been the case all day, U-M seemingly couldn't put the Spartans away and gave MSU one more chance to make it interesting.
With O'Connor in at quarterback, the drive started with a 35 yard completion to Scott and a roughing the passer call put MSU deep into U-M territory with 21 seconds left. With one second left on the clock, O'Connor threw a touchdown pass to Corley to make the score 30-23.
In a sick, weird twisted way to end this game, MSU would end up fumbling the snap on the two-point conversion and Jabrill Peppers returned it for a score, pushing the Wolverines' lead to 32-23.
Despite the strong MSU start and awakening in the fourth quarter, the tide seemed to turn in the Wolverines' favor in the first quarter with the game tied at seven. The Spartans were driving and the U-M defense, once again, came up big with a crucial stop on fourth down. The Wolverines took the subsequent possession down the field in five plays that was capped off by a one yard touchdown run by running back De'Veon Smith to take a lead U-M would hold onto for the rest of the game.
While the defense was certainly up to task, the Spartans tried its best to test the resolve of the defense early on. The first drive of the game, the Spartans and Scott did seemingly whatever it wanted to on the ground and scored its one and only touchdown on the day. Scott finished the game with 22 carries, 139 yards and one touchdown. After the long drive, the Wolverines' defense tightened up and shut the Spartans down.
On top of the first quarter fourth down stop, the Wolverines added another in the third quarter. Sitting one yard out, the Wolverines kept L.J. Scott out of the endzone in an impressive showing of force. Another defensive highlight came in the form a turnover. Shortly before the first half ended, senior cornerback Jourdan Lewis added an interception to his name. U-M took that turnover and added a field goal, stretching its lead to 27-10 at halftime.
The Wolverines' senior wide receiver Amara Darboh had a career day receiving. Drawing numerous pass interference calls against him, he also had 165 receiving yards. The man throwing him the ball, quarterback Wilton Speight, also had a positive game except for one blemish. Speight finished the game with 244 yards and one bad throw that resulted in an interception.
The Wolverines head back to Ann Arbor next week to face Maryland.