Grade the Wolverines: Rate Michigan's performance vs. MSU
Will Michigan's first loss in the Brady Hoke era result in our first set of "bad" grades, or were his Wolverines simply over-matched against the Spartans in East Lansing?
Here's your chance to weigh in on the 28-14 loss to Michigan State. Grade the Wolverines on offense, defense, special teams, coaching and overall:
Both Michigan quarterbacks struggled mightily with constant pressure from Michigan State. Denard Robinson (9-of-24 for 123 yards) threw what was essentially a game-ending interception that Isaiah Lewis returned for a 28-14 lead with 4:31 remaining. Devin Gardner was 3-of-7 passing for 45 yards and the Wolverines finished with a season-low 250 yards of total offense. Robinson (42 yards) and Vincent Smith (37 yards) were the leading rushers and Roy Roundtree caught a team-high four passes for 43 yards.
The unit made stops late that gave Michigan some flickering hope in the fourth quarter. Overall, the Spartans averaged 5.5 yards per run (26 carries for 167 yards by Edwin Baker) and allowed a pair of Kirk Cousins-to-Keshawn Martin touchdown passes. After allowing 21 second-half points all season, the Wolverines allowed 14 in the third quarter. A sign of the play up front: Defensive backs Thomas Gordon (7), Jordan Kovacs (6) and Blake Countess (6) were among Michigan's four top tacklers.
Punter Will Hagerup may have been the Wolverines' MVP in the first half after pinning the Spartans deep with several sideline punts, but Michigan didn't do much with the field-position advantage. Hagerup averaged 31.9 yards on seven punts — six coming in MSU territory — with four of them downed inside the 20-yard-line. Brendan Gibbons kicked three extra points, but did not attempt a field goal in the windy conditions.
A trick play call helped early — Drew Dileo picked up a first down on a fake field goal in the first quarter and the Wolverines scored two plays later — but people will be shaking their heads over the play-action call on 4th-and-1 from the MSU 9-yard line with 6:16 to play. Robinson was sacked for a 10-yard loss with the Wolverines looking to tie the game at 21-21.
In the end, Brady Hoke couldn't do what his five predecessors couldn't do — beat Michigan State as a first-year head coach. The Michigan seniors will leave the program having never beaten the Spartans, and Wolverines fans will be nail-biting for two weeks (Michigan is off next weekend), concerned that yet another late-season swoon is inevitable.