|Photo: James Coller|
Frequent readers of this site know I have a certain affinity for the writing of the West Wing. I wasn’t really a fan of the show when it was first on, but I have become increasingly more into it in recent years. I like the writing. For my money, Aaron Sorkin’s best work by far.
One of the frequent lines of the show is the main character President Bartlet asking “What’s next?”
It’s a passive-agressive way to tell people around you in a conversation that the topic is done, you’ve moved on to something more important, and you’d like everyone else around you to kindly do the same.
It’s a subtle power move. I like suble power moves.
Wilton Speight was as good as you’d want your sophomore quarterback to be in his first MSU game and his first real road test. Michigan moved the ball when they needed to, stopped Michigan State when they needed to. And when drives stalled, Kenny Allen was there to get Michigan 3 points.
The defense was tested with LJ Scott, but looked downright nasty when he wasn’t in the game. After Michigan had gone on a 30-3 run after Michigan State’s opening drive touchdown, it was all but over with Michigan up 30-10 with less than 8 minutes left.
The remainder of the game was a mashup of missed tackles, many missed holding calls, questionable pass interference calls, garbage time touchdowns, a crotchety coach more interested in vanity than the well-being of his own players…
…and an outcome that looks much closer on paper than it did on the field. And for that, congratulations coach Dantonio. A job well done.
Is Michigan State just a bad team that played it’s best game of the season (ala Brady Hoke vs Ohio State in 2014)? Yes. Did they still lose in convincing fashion? Yes. Do they find false-positives in only losing by 9 points? Absolutely.
I really don’t care. It’s over. Michigan won.
Also unstoppable was Eddie McDoom, who’s two jet sweeps netted him 53 yards. I’m a little surprised we didn’t see at least a little more of either him or that sort of play in the 2nd half. But given the score and trajectory of the game, it really wasn’t needed.
The goal line stand was special. Obviously. That put an end to any sort of real comeback. Also special was Michigan’s defense on 4th down only allowing 1 of 4 Michigan State conversions. Between Wormley and Charlton they shared 7 of Michigan’s 9 QB hurries.
Any talk of a Michigan win is incomplete without mentioning Jabrill Peppers. He was on point in this one. His sack on Lewerke both ended a MSU drive and Lewerke’s season. He saw some wildcat looks at QB which worked well most of the time. There was one play in the redzone in the 2nd half when he clearly held a ball he should’ve given to Smith. He does need to work on that a little.
Let’s talk about the 2-point conversion return.
At the time, I didn’t really think it was a big deal until I heard Dantonio say he went for 2 to send a message to his team. Whatever that message was was lost the second O’Connor pitched the ball to the area behind Gerald Holmes and Peppers scooped and scored. What a perfect symbolic moment for Dantonio to witness as his message sprinting 97-yards in the other direction.
I won’t make excuses, LJ Scott was a monster for Michigan State. Without looking it up, I’ll just assume his 139 yards were the most of any running back against Michigan this year. He was Michigan State’s lone bright spot on this one. He broke a lot of Michigan tackles, which was concerning.
In the “worst of after the game” category, because yes, Michigan State wasn’t satisfied with just losing on the field they had to look bad after the game as well…Tyler O’Connor was quoted as saying a Michigan D-lineman came up to him after the game and said “You guys might not have won the game, but you guys kicked our ass.”
I’m going to go out on limb and assume no Michigan player said anything close to that to any Michigan State player after the game…now or ever. But since no one will really ever know, all anyone will do is assume O’Connor was just making this up because it sounds like something a sore loser makes up.
OFFENSE: Amara Darboh
The senior receiver ended the day with 165 yards on 8 catches. Time and again, he was the primary target for Wilton Speight on 3rd down and really any pass downfield over 10 yards.
DEFENSE: Jourdan Lewis
Michigan State made it clear they were going to go after Lewis…mainly because he was usually covering MSU’s best options to move the ball through the air. It was a risk vs reward gamble that didn’t really pay off for the Spartans. His INT late in the 1st half and the tackle he had on that goal line stand were two huge plays that ended drives for Michigan State.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Kenny Allen
This one’s easy. The same kicker who missed 3 field goals against Wisconsin about a month ago completely redeemed himself this week with 3 clutch field goals which ended up being the margin of victory. He was spot on with his punts and kickoffs showing just how versatile he is as a kicker. He was also named the B1G special teams player of the week.
COACHES: Jim Harbaugh
This one’s easy. This game, this team, this season is all about Jim Harbaugh. Without him, we’re not 8-0 heading into November. He has completely turned this team into his team. Michigan is tougher, smarter and more prepared than they’ve even been since maybe 1997. Michigan State drives down the field and scores on their first drive…no problem. Michigan was ready for that. They adjusted and went on a 30-3 run.
Also receiving votes: Wilton Speight, Eddie McDoom, Jake Butt, Delano Hill, Mike McCray, Jabrill Peppers, Taco Charlton, Ryan Glasgow, Chris Wormley
2016 Game ball standings
1: Jabrill Peppers (8)
2. Jourdan Lewis (3), Jim Harbaugh (3)
3. Amara Darboh (2), Kenny Allen (2), Don Brown (2)
4. Karan Higdon (1), Dymonte Thomas (1), Khalele Hudson (1), Tyrone Wheatley (1), Channing Stribling (1), Greg Mattison (1), De’Veon Smith (1), Jake Butt (1), Chris Evans (1), Mike McCray (1), Wilton Speight (1), Chris Wormley (1), Chris Partridge (1)