Michigan State walked into The Big House and outclassed Michigan for four quarters in a 27-24 upset.
Michigan State beating Michigan was not an expectation today. Nor was Mel Tucker capturing his first win in Spartan green. Furthermore, MSU’s Rocky Lombardi outplaying Michigan’s Joe Milton wasn’t even a thought. All week leading up to Saturday’s game was about whether Jim Harbaugh would allow his Wolverines to run up the score or not.
Well, it’s kind of funny how expectations work. Because while Michigan expected MSU to lie down, the Spartans had other plans. That plan was to punch the Wolverines in the mouth. It was evident from Lombardi’s first touchdown throw to Ricky White that Don Brown’s defense was in for a long afternoon.
And if we’re honest, that’s putting it lightly.
Michigan State’s Rocky Lombardi had one hell of a game.
Rocky Lombardi started this game shaky.
There is absolutely no way around it. Anyone watching the game could see he was the beneficiary of some questionable officiating. Along with that, the Michigan defense gave him some extra help. Lombardi was able to take advantage of several blown assignments by the Michigan defense. A glaring one was the 53-yard grab by Jalen Nailor to set up another Spartan touchdown.
Even still, that was not the most impressive thing Lombardi did Saturday.
It was the way he targeted Michigan’s Vincent Gray repeatedly. Or as the cool kids would say, Lombardi gave him that work all afternoon. And so we’re clear, it wasn’t just Gray either. Lombardi flexed on the entire Michigan defense.
Proof of that is the Michigan State junior finishing with 323 yards and three touchdowns.
Lombardi didn’t even look like he should be on the field in a loss to Rutgers last week. However, in just one short week, he was able to do a complete 180.
Mel Tucker is to thank for that.
The Spartans did NOT look like a team that lost to Rutgers.
Just last week, Mel Tucker was the butt of a ton of jokes. After all, his Spartans lost to Rutgers; a school people question being in the Big Ten.
Rutgers, the Big Ten’s stepchild, marched into Spartan Stadium and whipped them?
It was mindboggling to watch because Michigan State did not look prepared. And that’s shocking since Mel Tucker’s preparation for games was a selling point to Spartan fans. Tucker’s coaching last week did not show that.
Fortunately for Tucker, another selling point showed in the Spartan’s play today, and that’s resiliency. The Spartans’ defense was an example of that. Last week, Rutgers’ Isaih Pacheco had his way with them on several occasions, resulting in two touchdowns.
Pacheco was able to toy with Michigan State defenders. It was the basis for many pundits believing the Wolverines would win in a wash. Heck, if you did not watch either game and only saw the box score, it backs up this notion. Michigan offense almost doubled Rutgers’ output last week, but Tucker had his guys ready.
Michigan put up 452 yards of offense, getting in the endzone three times.
The thing is, there should be an asterisk on the last touchdown.
Michigan’s Hassan Haskins scoring with 37 seconds left in the game was about as meaningless as it could get. Not only did they fail the onside kick attempt, but they allowed Rocky Lombardi to get a crucial first down to seal the win.
The Spartans offense did the one thing that won’t show up on the stat sheets, displaying poise, leadership, and focus.
Leadership starts from the top and trickles to the bottom. Give credit to Tucker for today’s coaching display. He coached a better game than the man across the sidelines from him.
Yes, I’m talking about Jim Harbaugh.
It’s the same old song.
Jim Harbaugh losing big games is starting to become a tradition.
You know, the kind where you do the same thing annually. Harbaugh blowing big games as a coach (or rivalry games for that matter) is the type of thing that is always on schedule.
Michigan is losing games because Harbaugh stays outcoached, outclassed, and unprepared in rivalry games.
It is becoming a tired act in Ann Arbor. How fun can it be as a Michigan fan to see their Wolverines win just about every game except the big ones. After Saturday’s loss to Michigan State, Harbaugh is now 48-19 as Michigan’s coach.
And that’s not a bad record. It’s pretty damn good. Let’s dig a little deeper to find out the flipside of this because context matters.
Harbaugh’s record vs. vs. Michigan State and Ohio State is now 3-9. Even worse, the Wolverines are 1-6 against both teams at Michigan Stadium.
Don’t expect U of M to fire Harbaugh after losing today’s game. It just won’t happen. Michigan fans should remember what the program looked like before his arrival. Unfortunately for Harbaugh, losing to rivals over and over will not sit well with the Wolverine fanbase. Regardless of how the rest of the season plays out, nothing will matter if Harbaugh and the Wolverines don’t beat Ohio State this season.
If they lose, dropping to 3-10 against their two fiercest rivals, Harbaugh may finally be out in Ann Arbor.
For now though, the Paul Bunyan trophy is returning to East Lansing.