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Michigan: Five things we learned

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh yells at the officials in the second quarter.

Room for improvement: The Michigan players knew they needed a test, since they hadn’t had one in nearly a month when the Wolverines faced Wisconsin, and they got one from the Spartans. It was a reminder for them, especially the defense, that while the record is unblemished and the stats gaudy, there remains plenty of room for improvement.

Defense tested, but stays sturdy: Michigan’s defense got pushed and sometimes pushed around but came up big in critical moments. Just look at the fact they did not allow Michigan State to convert on three of four fourth-down attempts. That’s what the Michigan defense is carrying with them, not the fourth-quarter drift in which Michigan State outscored Michigan, 13-5.

Henning: UM-MSU playing for different stakes

Darboh is a star: At the Big Ten kickoff in July, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Amara Darboh had emerged as the team’s top receiver. Now, part of that was because Jehu Chesson, last year’s team MVP, missed the spring while recovering from a knee injury, but even with a healthy Chesson, Darboh has stood out. He had eight catches for 165 yards against Michigan State, including two on third-down conversions, and he had big plays of 39 and 43 yards. He is second in the Big Ten in receiving yards with 664 on 38 receptions (17.5 yards per catch).

Allen settling in askicker: Kenny Allen has been handling all the kicking duties because he is the best option and has shaken off a tough field-goal performance against Wisconsin on Oct. 1. In the last two games, Allen has gone 5-of-5 on field-goal attempts and that includes three made against Michigan State. He is 9-of-13 on the season now.

Center can run: Mason Cole is a center who apparently has some wheels. Darian Hicks was speeding on his way to a pick-six after intercepting Wilton Speight in the third quarter when Cole caught up and pushed him out of bounds at the Michigan 33-yard line. It was the first touchdown-saving play in that sequence. Michigan’s defense then stopped the Spartans at the 2-yard line after four-straight runs by L.J. Scott.