Field goal fest lifts Michigan over Michigan State in rivalry matchup

Jake Moody kicked five field goals as the fourth-ranked Michigan Wolverines (U-M) defeated the Michigan State Spartans (MSU) 29-7 on Saturday, Oct. 29. U-M’s 22-point victory was just about exactly what most sports books were predicting prior to the game. 

MSU received the ball first and showed signs of life early on, but a trio of penalties set the Spartans back, and they were forced to punt. 

U-M was also driving on its first possession, but wide receiver Cornelius Johnson fumbled, giving the ball back to MSU. The Spartans turned the ball over on downs, and U-M was given the ball in enemy territory. 

The Wolverines capitalized with the first of Moody’s five field goals. 

MSU answered, however. Payton Thorne and Keon Coleman connected on two deep passes, the second of which came in the form of a 26-yard touchdown, and the Spartans led 7-3.

Although the momentum was shifting in MSU’s favor, U-M answered with an 8-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, capped off by a two-yard touchdown pass from J.J. McCarthy to Blake Corum. 

Moody added his second field goal of the game late in the first half, and U-M found itself with a 13-7 lead going into halftime.

The Spartans struggled to get anything going on offense in the second half, and U-M strung together three straight field goal drives to extend its lead to 22-7.

MSU felt its opportunity slipping away, but was forced to attempt a punt down 15 in the fourth quarter. However, the Spartans’ backup long snapper, Michael Donovan, snapped the ball over the head of punter Bryce Baringer. 

Baringer couldn’t control the wild snap, and he was tackled at his own eight yard line.

Corum ran in his second touchdown of the game, as U-M flexed its muscle and put its rival away. 

However, the main storyline from this game may not even be the game itself. As the clock hit triple zeroes, there were some extracurricular activities on the field between the two teams, as there are in any rivalry game. 

It didn’t take long, though, before reports began of the activities being carried into the tunnel, which leads to both locker rooms. 

U-M defensive backs Ja’Den McBurrows and Gemon Green were “assaulted,” according to Jim Harbaugh in a postgame press conference.

“Two of our players were assaulted,” Harbuagh said following the team’s victory. 

U-M’s head coach went on to describe the event as a “10-on-1” in which McBurrows endured beating from multiple MSU players.

“I know it was a heated game, things were heated, we were trying to get our guys to the locker room — we’ll have to figure out what happened,” MSU head coach Mel Tucker said. 

“As Spartans, our program has a responsibility to uphold the highest level of sportsmanship,” Tucker said in a tweet Sunday. “While emotions were very high at the conclusion of our rivalry game at Michigan Stadium, there is no excuse for behavior that puts our team or our opponents at risk.

“In complete cooperation with law enforcement, the Big Ten Conference and MSU and UM leadership, we will evaluate the events in Ann Arbor and take swift and appropriate action.”

The Paul Bunyan Trophy now resides in Ann Arbor, and the now 8-0 Wolverines are squarely in the College Football Playoff discussion, but Saturday’s rivalry matchup seems to be taking a backseat to the postgame events.