The Michigan Wolverines improved to 8-0 (5-0 Big Ten) with a 32-23 road victory over Michigan State (2-6, 0-5 Big Ten) on Saturday afternoon.
Many around the country predicted a lopsided victory for the Wolverines on Saturday, but the the Spartans had different plans. Instead of laying down and surrendering before the game had even started, Michigan State received the opening kickoff and took the ball 75 yards, in 12 plays, to take an impressive 7-0 lead. The Spartans couldn’t have started this rivalry game any better, but their lead would only last 3:28, as the Wolverines drove 80 yards in just 8 plays to even the score. The drive was capped off with a 3-yard rushing touchdown from Jabrill Peppers.
Michigan led the game the rest of the way, as they added two De’Veon Smith touchdowns (1 yard, 5 yards), and two Kenny Allen field goals (23 yards, 23 yards) in the second quarter—compared to just one Michael Geiger field goal (52 yards) for Michigan State.
The third quarter saw no scoring from either team, but Kenny Allen notched his third field goal of the game (45 yards), just 18 seconds into the fourth quarter. The Spartans, trailing 30-10, would not go down without a fight. A pair of passing touchdowns (One from Brian Lewerke to Monty Madaris, and one from Tyler O’Conner to Donnie Corley), brought the Spartans within seven, with 1 second left on the clock. To many peoples surprise, Spartan head coach, Mark Dantonio, elected to go for the 2-point conversion, to try to cut the lead to just five. Unfortunaytley for the Spartans, they fumbled on the play, and Michigan defender, and Heisman hopeful, Jabrill Peppers, scooped the ball, and took it 90 yards for a 2-point score.
To sum it up:
— Michigan Athletics (@UMichAthletics) October 29, 2016
Overall this was another great TEAM win for the Wolverines, and another great Big Ten victory. A lot of guys contributed to the rivalry win, but a few players played above the rest. Let’s see who are “Harbaugh’s Heroes” this week.
Amara Darboh, Wide Receiver, Senior
Coming in to Saturday’s matchup with the Spartans, senior wide out Amara Darboh led the Wolverines in receiving. Touting a 30 catch, 499 yard, 5 touchdown season, Darboh has been very solid for Michigan. Saturday was no exception, as Amara had a career day. He finished the day with 8 receptions for 165 yards, and was Wilton Speight’s favorite target on most third down plays. Amara made a few one handed catches on the afternoon, and proved to be a very valuable piece in the passing game yet again.
The Wolverines will continue to lean on Amara, as well as the rest of the talented receiving corps, as this season goes on. They will need days like this out of their star receivers. When he is called upon, Darboh continues to shine.
Wilton Speight, Quarterback, Sophomore
Darboh’s success wouldn’t have been made possible, without a great quarterback throwing him the pigskin. Speight has started to really show some potential the past few weeks, as he threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns last week versus Illinois, and 244 yards, and 1 interception on Saturday, versus the Spartans. Although Speight failed to find the endzone through the air this week, it was his play that led to the success of the Wolverine offense. Multiple times Saturday, coach Harbaugh put the ball in Speight’s hands to make the play on third down, and he didn’t disappoint. We saw this out of Jake Ruddock last year, and now we are seeing it again…a Michigan quarterback growing up before our very eyes.
Speight’s one mistake on the afternoon came on Michigan’s first possession of the second half, as the Wolverines were driving, and Speight lofted a ball to Karan Higdon down field. He threw the ball off his back foot, across the field, and as soon as he let it go, he knew he messed up. For Michigan to take that next step and win a championship, Wilton Speight is going to have to continue to play like he has been. So far I have been very impressed with him this year.
Kenny Allen, Kicker, Senior
There has been a lot of talk about Michigan kickers since the Wisconsin game. Everyone was calling for Allen’s head after his two missed field goals. Would it be Ryan Tice? The freshman kicker Quinn Nordin? Or would Allen turn things around, and continue to be the Wolverines place kicker?
Since Allen’s second missed field goal, he was 11-11 on extra points, and 2-2 on field goals (23,27) coming into the Michigan State game. The Wolverines relied on Allen yet again on Saturday, asking him to make three field goals during the contest. Allen connected on all three attempts, which were from 23 yards, 23 yards, and 45 yards. He also added three extra points.
Since his second miss against Wisconsin, Allen is now 14-14 on extra points, and 5-5 on field goals. Michigan will need a solid kicking game, once they get into November, and beyond.
Jabrill Peppers, Everything, Junior
Heisman hopeful, Jabrill Peppers, had somewhat of a quiet game on the stat sheet, but there’s no question that he is the heart and soul of this Michigan team, and he was a difference maker in this game. His energy, ability, and leadership, go far beyond any stat or award out there.
Here’s what he did on Saturday:
5 carries, 24 yards, 1 touchdown
1 kick return, 15 yards
1 punt return, 8 yards
7 tackles (2 for loss), 1 sack
1 reception, -2 yards
1 defensive 2-point conversion
1 fumble recovery
Peppers continues to turn heads around the country, but I think he will need to do just a little more on the offensive side of the ball to be considered for the Heisman trophy at the end of the year. However, right now he could care less about any individual awards. He just wants TEAM wins for the Wolverines.
The Wolverines will be back in action next week, as they welcome Maryland, and first year head coach D.J. Durkin back to the Big House. Kickoff is slated for 3:30 est, and it should be another great Big Ten football game. Go Blue!