Observations on the overtime win over the Spartans, 34-31!

1-Michigan creates 5 red zone opportunities and cashes in for 24 points plus a red zone in overtime for 3 more to give them a well-deserved 34-31 overtime thriller. Michigan State never led in this game, and had two opportunities to take the lead, but their field goal kicker, Goss, missed both opportunities.

2-Chad Henne was 26 of 35 for 256 yards and 3 first half TDs, one pick and 2 sacks. Avant had 10 catches for 96 yards and one TD. Mario Manningham had 4 catches for 66 yards including a 43 yard TD. Carl Tabb caught 5 passes for 35 yards plus had a nice 23 yard kickoff return. We had 21 first downs, and 488 yards in total offense with 8 of 20 on 3rd and 4th down conversions. This meant a one minute time of possession advantage which doesn't sound like a lot, but it resulted in 11 more offensive plays. In the 4th quarter, we possessed the ball 11:51 of 15 minutes.

3-Michael Hart had 218 yards in 36 carries for 1 TD, and our rushing attack came up with 232 net yards despite two sacks. Mike Hart definitely gets the game ball as offensive player of the game. Nice TD catch by Thompson on a critical 3rd down red zone play. Our running game contributed to our time of possession advantage, and keeping the ball away from their terrific offense.

4-Defense came up big in stopping a dynamite Spartan offense! Great game plan by Coach Hermann and great execution by our defensive unit. Advantage goes to Steve Stripling, former Spartan defensive line coach. Brendent Engelmon gets the game ball with 13 tackles, 10 unassisted and some nice hits. Who needs Earnest Shazor? Woodley didn't have the numbers he'd have liked, but he did apply great pressure on Stanton, and an observer could see that Stanton was aware of his presence at all times. Woods came off the bench and had two tackles for loss including a sack plus he forced a fumble. Barringer got a nice pick, and we had some nice pass break ups by Barringher, Hall, Adams, Burgess and Mason. Good coverage in the backfield by Ron English's troops who limited the Spartan passing attack to one TD pass. Biggs left the game with a knee injury. Jamison saw some action, and did get a tackle for loss. We had 8 tackles for loss.

5-Stanton ended up with 20 of 30 for 282 yards, one TD pass, one TD run and one pick. Their offense also had 21 first downs, but were 8 of 14 in 3rd down conversions, and only converted their 4 red zone opportunities into 17 points. They did have 455 yards in total offense, but only one big play TD to Kerry Reed for 61 yards. The Spartans had 173 net rushing yards with Teague leading the way with 72 yards, Caulcrick had 50 yards and one TD, and Ringer had 37 yards in 12 carries. The big story was Stanton netting zero yards in 8 carries due to 2 Wolverine sacks. Dave Herron contributed 13 tackles and Eric Smith had 11 including a TD saver on Hart in a losing effort.

6-Special teams ended up winning the game with Rivas hitting the game winning field goal plus another and 4 extra points. Ryan had 4 punts including one downed by Harrison at the 2, and 4 touchbacks in six kickoffs. Hall, Mason and Tabb did an adequate job in Breaston's absence. The Spartan return game was non-existent, and their poor kicking game cost them the game in the end. We were well-disciplined today with only 2 penalties for 7 yards.

7-Two overtime victories over the Spartans in two years will leave them crying for another year on how they were "robbed" and how they deserved to win. Last year, I'd agree, but not this year. We deserved this win. Turnover battle was even with the Spartans winning the points off 2 turnovers by Henne in the second half, 10-7. Big plays went to the Spartans, 2-1 with Peko's 74 yard TD rumble and Reed's 61 yard TD scamper compared to Manningham's 43 yard TD grab. The difference was how the teams finished, we did and they didn't.

8-The Spartans overcame a 14-0, 21-7 and 31-24 deficits to tie the game twice, but couldn't take the lead. We went from almost going up in the 4th quarter by two scores to 34-24 to seeing a 31-31 tie in the big fumble recovery by Peko; however, we kept our poise, maintained possession of the football and drove to a winning scoring opportunity. Rivas' miss led to the big defensive overtime stop that gave him a reprieve.

9-It was great to see two true freshman make such a difference today with Antonio Bass running for 8 yards in the red zone to set up a touchdown, and Manningham move into a starting role with the shoulder injury to Breaston. Teams will have to re-prepare for our offense. Brandon Harrison, Darnell Hood and Morgan Trent got their first starts as Wolverines as we began the game defensively with 7 defensive backs. There were not a lot of substitutions on on either side of the ball, but Terry Taylor was our first guy in behind Alan Branch at Nose Tackle ahead of Will Johnson. Our offense didn't start too well in the second half with a turnover, and two three and outs; however, they finished well. Noticeably missing today was Max Martin.

10-We're back in the Big Ten race! Hopefully, we can beat Minnesota for the Brown Jug and homecoming next week to maintain our momentum and improvement.
Observations on the first half with the Spartans, 24-21!
1—Wow! What a nice start and great execution in the red zone. We are three for three in the red zone for 17 points plus a big play TD to Manningham for our 3 touchdowns and a field goal. Unfortunately, we couldn’t contain the big play Spartan offense and they came back with 2 for 2 in the red zone plus a big play to Kerry Reed for 61 yards for their 21 points. The difference in the game so far is one turnover that we turned into 7 points plus the penalty for roughing the kicker that turned a field goal into a touchdown.

2—Defense came up big early, but Spartan offense is wearing them down! Our linebackers are simply not doing the job against their running game. Harrison was burned badly on the quick toss to Reed for the TD scamper.

3—Henne is 19 of 24 for 218 yards and 3 TDS, no picks and no sacks. Avant has 7 catches for 77 yards and one TD while Manningham has 3 catches for 58 yards and one TD. Each team has 13 first downs; we have 299 yards in total offense while they have 311 yards. We are also about even in rushing yardage, 93 to 92. Time of possession is in the MSU favor by 1:30.

4—Hart has 14 carries for 84 yards, and our rushing attack has shown some signs of life; however, we set up the run with our passing game. Nice TD catch by Thompson on a critical 3rd down red zone play.

5—Stanton is 11 of 17 for 207 yards, one TD pass, one TD run and one pick. Caulcrick has bruised his was for 6 carries and 50 yards and one TD.

6—Special teams has been good so far with Ryan blasting 3 touchbacks on kickoffs, and punting twice. Rivas has 3 extra points and 2 field goals although only one counted.

7—We must maintain time of possession advantage, and make the most of our opportunities while limiting their opportunities. Hopefully, we can keep the turnover advantage in our favor and finish well. Big plays are even. Best defense and best finish wins it. I don’t like our chances in a shoot out. We can win this one, but we must execute and finish well.

I just love to "eat my words."

Michigan State Preview: Revenge will be a key factor as will home field advantage in this episode of the great intrastate rivalry. Drew Stanton leads Michigan State and the nation in passing efficiency, and he ranks #9 nationally in total offense. He and Heisman Award winner, Matt Leinhart, are the two best quarterbacks in the nation. Javon Ringer, Jason Teague and Jehuu Calcrick lead their ground game, but it is the menacing, Drew Stanton, that keeps drives alive and is difficult to contain. Stanton's favorite targets are Kyle Brown, Jerramy Scott, Terry Love and Basketballer Matt Trannon; they have 7 TD catches and Trannon has 3. They have a solid offensive line that protects Stanton well. They are the #5 scoring offense and #3 in total offense nationally averaging 49 points a game with 27 touchdowns in 4 games. This opens the door for time of possession and field position advantage. They have also won two big road games to build their confidence.

On defense, Saginaw standout Clifton Ryan and Samoan JC transfer Domata Peko put on a solid pass rush, but it is usually the linebacker, corner and safety blitz package with Kaleb Thornhill, Eric Smith and SirDean Adams. They are ranked #23 nationally in rushing defense allowing only 91.8 yards per game. They did a much better job containing the Irish's Darius Walker than we did. Where they are weak is in passing defense ranking 104th of 119 teams and last in the Big Ten, and this brings their total defense rank to 69th nationally (10th in the Big Ten). Our best defense will be a ball control offense keeping time of possession, and the ball away from Stanton.

Special Teams is another area where Michigan may be able to gain an advantage as the Spartans use Kyle Brown on kickoffs and punts. Brandon Fields is an excellent punter, but he hasn't been forced to punt much. Michigan must limit returns while gaining valuable field position advantage with Breaston, Manningham or whoever is back there.

Our pass defense should be able to contain their receivers, but I'm not confident we'll be able to contain their offense. I don't think our linebackers will be able to contain Stanton, and I don't see our defensive line sacking him. I see Michigan State with a balanced attack, and gaining more yards on the ground than us. If we are able to control the ball, execute in the red zone to put up points on the board, and win the turnover battle; we will be in the game until the end. The Spartan defensive pass rush will definitely put the "heat" on Henne and their rush defense is geared to stop our run game. I do not believe that we'll gain 200 yards on the ground; in fact, I don't believe we'll even get 150 net rushing yards (Hart or no Hart).

I am predicting that both teams will gain over 400 yards each of total offense with at least 20 first downs each. I also predict that both teams will get at least 4 red zone opportunities each, but I'm predicting that the Spartans will be more efficient in their opportunities scoring 3 touchdowns and one field goal to 2 touchdowns and 2 field goals for us. I think our offense (and/or defense with turnovers) will need to put up 30 or more points to win this game, and I'm not sure we'll be able to do that. I'm predicting that the Spartans will get off to a quick start, and carry the lead early and through halftime; however, I also predict that it will come down to a 4th quarter game. I see the Spartans maintaining a time of possession advantage when and if they need to; otherwise, if they are able to score quickly, they won't need to worry about possessing the ball for a long time. The game will come down to turnovers, big plays and who finishes the best. That may mean holding a lead or it could mean coming from behind.

Had Stanton not been injured in last year's game, MSU would have won. You can bet he'll be in there the whole way against Michigan, and lead them to a win at home. Since I work in East Lansing, I've been listening to people discuss how this game will be a "blowout" or how the Spartans will win easily. This overconfidence makes me laugh, but it also makes me sick to hear such unrealistic perceptions of a great rivalry. The toughest of the two teams, not the most talented, will win. The game will be close, but I'm sorry to say that I'm not predicting a Michigan win. If you're a bettor, take Michigan and the points. I hope my final score prediction is wrong.

MSU 27 Michigan 23