David Dowell and Andrew Dowell talk about Michigan State's win over Michigan. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — Michigan State’s defense came into Saturday’s game against Michigan with a goal of creating turnovers.
The Spartans did that and then some, forcing five turnovers as Michigan State beat Michigan, 14-10, at Michigan Stadium to win for the eighth time in the last 10 years and bring the Paul Bunyan Trophy home.
“We talk about turnovers all the time,” sophomore linebacker Joe Bachie said. “It’s something Coach (Mark) Dantonio preaches all the time. You win the turnover margin and you have a chance to win the game. Our goal was four turnovers coming in and we exceeded that, so that was great to see. It played a huge role in the game. The momentum can swing and I’m glad we were on the right side of it.”
Bachie played a big role again, a week after he recovered a fumble in the win over Iowa. He got started early against the Wolverines, stripping the ball from running back Ty Isaac in the first quarter. Michigan State’s Chris Frey recovered and seven plays later quarterback Brian Lewerke scored on a 14-yard run to put the Spartans ahead, 7-3.
Bachie was big again in the second half, intercepting a John O’Korn pass and collecting a sack before knocking down the final pass of the game in the end zone.
“That’s why we come here, for an atmosphere like that,” Bachie said. “We come here to play Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and it’s just so joyful to be out there and see the fans that have so much pride in us. I was proud to be a part of it.”
As good as Bachie was, sophomore safety David Dowell was just as impressive. Starting for the second time, Dowell recovered a fumble late in the first half to end a Michigan scoring threat, then had two interceptions in the second half.
“We knew they were going to take shots regardless of the weather and everything like that,” Dowell said. “We made sure we were ready to go. We were just playing our normal coverage and I was in the right place to make the plays and I was able to make the plays.”
Kenny Willekes, Chris Frey, Joe Bachie and Brian Lewerke discuss win over Wolverines. Matt Charboneau
It was the latest solid outing for a defense that has been good all year. In addition to the five turnovers, the Spartans had a season-high four sacks and now have 13 for the season, two more than in all of 2016.
And with the rain pouring down in the second half, the defense knew the game was on its shoulders.
“This is a game we play every year and the defense plays a huge role in it no matter what,” senior linebacker Chris Frey said. “My hats off to the guys on this defense. They stepped up and made huge plays in this game because we talk about it every week.
“We’re a young team and a lot of guys had never played in this game before or had not had many snaps in this game. A lot of those guys stepped up and made huge plays tonight.”
Michigan hurt itself with five turnovers, but Michigan State wasn’t doing itself any favors with 11 penalties for 81 yards.
The emotion of the rivalry led to several calls after the whistle, a couple that came on Michigan State turnovers and erased good field position.
“We tell our guys there’s gonna be penalties,” Frey said. “There’s gonna be adversity and we have to fight through it.”
The biggest call came on Frey in the final minute of the game. Michigan’s John O’Korn dumped the ball off to running back Karan Higdon, who was hit out of bounds by Frey, putting the ball at the 50-yard line.
“I take full responsibility for that penalty,” Frey said. “I should have just let him go, but our defense stepped up and made big plays late in that drive.”
Ground to a halt
Michigan State ran the ball well in the first half, gaining 112 yards on the top rushing defense in the nation. It came to a halt in the second half as the Spartans finished with 158 yards on the ground.
Junior LJ Scott did not play because of a minor injury while fifth-year senior Gerald Holmes suffered an ankle injury but stayed in the game. Junior Madre London picked up the slack, running for 59 yards on 10 carries and catching a 16-yard touchdown pass.
“LJ was nicked up,” Dantonio said. “He probably could have played but we felt like we couldn’t risk having him out for another couple of weeks if something happened. Gerald went down with a little bit of an ankle but came back. Madre had some really nice plays.”
Michigan State has now defeated Michigan 11 times when the Wolverines are ranked in the Associated Press top 10.
… Mark Dantonio is 4-1 in Michigan Stadium and 8-3 overall vs. Michigan, including wins in eight of the past 10 meetings.