1,071. Going into Saturday’s Michigan-Michigan State contest, that’s the number of days it had been since the Spartans had fallen at the hands of their rivals. Following Saturday afternoon’s 34-17 defeat of the Wolverines, it’s safe to say that streak will continue for at least a few hundred more.
Make no mistake about it, the Spartans have definitelyÂ earned the right to hold thisÂ victory above the helpless Maize and Blue until next season’s contest, and with the win, Michigan State has now beaten the boys from Ann Arbor three straight times, something that hasn’t been done since 1967.
While the resultÂ and those statistics are undoubtedly thrilling, every milestone always requires perspective. Going forward,Michigan State will need to remember just how exactly they reached this point. After today’s game, we definitely know how they got here.
Â First and foremost, this team can run the football anytime, anywhere, against any opponent. They could have lined up in the parking lot and let Edwin Baker loose on Obi Ezeh and company. His 22 carries for 147 yards were a huge part of the victory today, but he wasn’t the only piece of the puzzle.
Larry Caper continued a slow return to form with an 8-yard touchdown run and 34 yards total, and Leveon Bell ran for 78 yards and a 41-yard scamper for six. That’s two straight weeks, two Big Ten defenses, and two straight conference victories in which the Spartans have outrushed their opponent.
Secondly, this team can throw the ball effectively. Coach Dantonio called on play-action passes in theÂ Michigan contest to nearly the same results that interim CEO Don Treadwell saw. They have both shown the desire to run the football to set up play fakes, and its paid off for sophomore starter Kirk Cousins. In the past three weeks, Cousins has had three straight games with single-digit incompletions, three straight 250 plus-yard passing efforts, and, most importantly, three straight victories under his belt.
This team’s defense can stop opposing offenses just enough to give their ownÂ ‘O’Â a chance. While that may not sound particularly impressive, that’s saying something when faced with the top rusher in the country. They limited him to only 84 yards on the ground, and no gains of longer than 16 yards. The Spartans’ secondary also put themselves in the right spots in the right situations, picking off three Robinson passes when the Wolverines were threatening to score.
Most importantly, this team has affirmed the toughness and discipline that their leader always talks about. Coach Dantonio has stressed doing things the right way and playing with passion and purpose since Day 1. He’s also continued to stand up to Michigan, and emphasized the importance of this rivalry to the school. The value he places on the little things has clearly paid off. He’s crafted a resilient, determined team that overcomes mistakes, buys into the coaching staff’s gameplan, and finds ways to win every single week (so far). Those traits rose to the forefront once again, asÂ the Spartans turned an early Michigan lead into 24 unanswered points, shut down Denard Robinson, and used momentum to their advantage.
There might come a fall Saturday next year where the Spartans’ magical streak will come to a close.Â Until then,Â let’s Â keep counting the days.