East Lansing — Not that they would forget losing to Michigan State last season in Michigan Stadium and watching the Spartans celebrate with the Paul Bunyan Trophy, but the Wolverines still had constant reminders every day this past week.
Photos of the Spartans celebrating with the trophy in Michigan Stadium were scattered on the walls in Schembechler Hall.
“We were reminded of that every single day this week,” senior safety Tyree Kinnel said. “That’s what they wanted to do. Coach gave us the clear to (celebrate on the field at MSU). We win this game, we win the trophy and make the field our field. That’s what they did to us last year. It felt good doing that.”
Michigan celebrated on the Spartan Stadium field with the Paul Bunyan Trophy after winning, 21-7, on Saturday.
The Wolverines’ defense entered this game ranked No. 2 nationally and shuttered the Michigan State offense, holding the Spartans to 94 total yards and not allowing them to convert on 12 third-down attempts.
Michigan State entered the game averaging 394.5 yards a game and 25.8 points. The seven points were the fewest by the Spartans in the rivalry series since 2002 when Michigan won, 49-3. Michigan has now held seven of eight opponents this season to their season low in yardage. The Spartans had 15 rushing yards.
Michigan’s defense got a boost from its offense which held the ball for 14 minutes during the game. Michigan State ran 51 plays, 27 fewer than Michigan. But the Wolverines’ defense made the most of their time on the field.
“Our defense was lights out today to hold an opponent to (94) yards of total offense and 0-12 on third down conversions,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “I mean, that’s the kind of statistics you dream. That was a dream game. Offensively against a highly ranked running defense, our guys didn’t back down. They kept pounding and got the job done.”
Linebacker Devin Bush, who had four tackles, including a sack, was asked about the paltry yardage allowed and the third-down stops.
“It speaks for itself,” Bush said. “We executed our scheme, executed our plan. We fought hard all four quarters. We knew coming into this game that it was one of those games you have to finish in the first and second halves. That’s what we did.”
Kinnel, who led the team with five tackles, including one for loss, said this type of performance gives the Wolverines’ defense even more confidence heading into the final third of the season. Michigan is off next week before playing Penn State on Nov. 3.
“That’s very big when you can shut out a team 0-12 on third down,” Kinnel said. “You’re going to win a lot of big games doing that.”