Michigan football’s 4th-down stand in first half key to 29-7 win

Michigan football
Michigan football

Time was called by Michigan State so that they could double-check their play selection.

After Elijah Collins was stuffed on a fourth-and-1 attempt by the Wolverines in the previous quarter, the Spartans decided to go for it on fourth down from the Michigan football 5-yard line instead of attempting a field goal, despite being down by three points. (A first down was initially awarded, but the call was reversed after review.)

To get the defense going, Mississippi State put running back Jaden Reed in motion, and then tried a delayed counter with Jalen Berger. State of Michigan did not fall for it.

With 7:31 left in the second quarter, the Wolverines’ defensive front mauled MSU’s interior into the backfield, linebackers Junior Colson and Michael Barrett shot through the voids and dropped Berger for a loss of two, and the crowd of 111,803 went into a pom-pom shaking craze.

Rainer S. Sabin: Michigan has demonstrated that it is the state with the most rapidly improving program.

It was the defining moment in Michigan’s 29-7 victory over Michigan State, which ended the Spartans’ two-game winning streak in the series and gave the Paul Bunyan Trophy back to the undefeated Wolverines (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten).

The collective sigh of relief from the maize and blue faithful in the stands was as telling of the moment’s significance as anything else. After Michigan committed an early turnover and Michigan State was in the midst of consecutive drives of more than 70 yards, the crowd sat on its hands for the first 20 minutes.

FIGHT BREWS: Players from Michigan and Michigan State square off in the tunnel after the Michigan football game.

Since this rivalry has a recent history of violence, the atmosphere in the stadium was tense, but the stop sent a message and a sigh of relief throughout the venue.

The ball and the momentum of the game then switched to the Wolverines.

With the first play of the game, Blake Corum rushed for 18 yards while avoiding several tacklers. After being contained for four plays, J.J. McCarthy broke free for a 21-yard rush up the middle into MSU territory. McCarthy and the Wolverines were facing fourth-and-3 on the ensuing down when he once again worked his magic with his legs, this time gaining 16 yards and moving the ball into the Michigan State red zone.

The Wolverines were slowed down, and they had to settle for a field goal from Jake Moody from 24 yards out. Although Michigan State had a chance to tie or take the lead, Michigan ended up with a six-point advantage.

That game-changing play on fourth down was typical of the crucial third and fourth down plays that decided the game. As the game entered the fourth quarter, Michigan had a two-possession lead and was 8-for-13 on the day from the field and from the free throw line. Only two of the ten attempts were successful for MSU.

Michigan often found itself in red zone or at the very least in MSU territory when it failed to convert key downs and distances. Until there were less than six minutes left in the game, the Wolverines didn’t punt, but they did make frequent use of a special teams weapon: Jake Moody.

The reigning Lou Groza Award winner kicked a perfect five field goals, the longest from 54 yards out with 14:45 remaining before Corum’s final four-yard touchdown rush put the game, which Michigan had controlled for much of the game, out of reach.


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