The unease lasted most of the game.
The feelings of comfort and optimism were fleeting. This was, after all, the way that it played out in my head when I thought about "ways Michigan State could win this thing". Shut down Michigan's run game? Check. Break a couple big plays thanks to gimmicks or luck? Check. Mark Dantonio's patented special teams fake that you totally should have seen coming (but didn't)? Check.
Still, every step of the way Michigan was there in lockstep with the Spartans. Every defensive stop that MSU forced was matched by an equally impressive shutdown by the UM defense. Every big play that went the Spartans' way had a counterpart that helped Michigan get close enough to kick a field goal and keep on living. L-I-V-I-N-G.
This rivalry -- if you could even call it over the last four, lopsided years -- has been marked by the missed opportunities that have slipped through Michigan's fingertips as the Wolverines have come up short time and again at the hands of the Spartans.. Sure, the Spartans showed up each game and made life hell, but that is what teams do in games like these. They harass each other up and down the field. Life's hard. So are games against teams you hate that hate you back. You either deal with it or deal with the next 364 days.
For the first time in five meetings, Michigan dealt with it. The defense controlled every attempt MSU mustered to salvage a ground game. The offense -- getting the ball back with a one-point deficit and two minutes to go -- went 40 yards to set up the game winning kick. Then Brendan Gibbons put it down like so many Keystone Lights. Michigan finally made the plays at the right time.
And here they are, the Wolverines. Unbeaten in the conference. Still living; at least for another day.
Gibbons trotted back onto the field, lined up the 38-yard field goal and stuck it between the uprights to give No. 23 Michigan a 12-10 victory Saturday against Michigan State. That swing of the leg ended a four-game losing streak in the series, and assured the seniors they would leave school with a win against their in-state rival. "I was thinking about the seniors," Gibbons said of his pre-kick thoughts. "Just go win the game for us. "So I just went out there and won the game."
It is a defense that allowed one touchdown in the second half over its last five games. A defense that held the Big Ten's second-leading leading rusher, Le'Veon Bell, to 68 yards rushing and kept him out of the end zone. A defense that, when Michigan was desperate for a stop to give the offense and special teams a chance to pull out what looked like an improbable victory, it did. It is a defense that held its fourth straight opponent to fewer than 250 yards of offense and second straight opponent to fewer than 200 yards of offense.
Threatdown - The Hoover Street Rag
Spock: Four field goals is hardly the offensive output necessary over the long term to win the Big Ten Championship.
Kirk: Don't care! Don't care! Woooooo! Woooo! What the Dileo?!? Wooo!
Spock: And to garner those four field goals in a home game against a team that is coming off a home loss to Iowa, (editor's note: an Iowa team that would get its doors blown off at home by Penn State later in the evening) it is worrisome to say the least, no?
Kirk: Don't care! Don't care!
Spock: You aren't troubled by the dropped balls by the receivers? By the missed opportunities? By the nine tackles for loss Michigan State had? None of this bothers you.
Kirk: Nope, Don't care! 12 > 10. Mathman, Mathman. 12 is greater than 10.
October 20 isn't just a date... it's a state of mind - The Hoover Street Rag
In all the craziness and pain and suffering, I almost forgot that this was a classic Sparty, No! ending, complete with a key Tommy Gholston penalty on Michigan's final drive and the hilarious last-second attempt at a kickoff return. Even so, I think B1G fans are being too hard on the conference these days. If Iowa 12, Michigan 10 can be a classic game in 1985, Michigan 12, MSU 10 can be a classic game in 2012. If SEC fans can extol LSU 9, Alabama 6 as an all-time classic defensive struggle, we can do the same with 12-10. Jake M.F. Ryan. Jordan Kovacs. Never letting LeVeon Bell getting more than eight yards on a carry. Two top-ranked defenses doing their thing, and the game ultimately being decided by two awesome kickers doing their thing. #positweet, posiblog, whatever. Let's have a little conference chestpumping*.
Those defenses forced MSU into what may be the overlooked play of the game, their decision to kick a field goal from 4th and goal from the one. Michigan's was so effective the Dantonio didn't trust Bell to get one yard. MSU's was so effective that a one-point lead looked like it might be insurmountable. But in the end, it all came down to has the ball last, as it so often does.
SportsMonday Column: The legend of Bear Gibbons, from 'zero to hero' - The Michigan Daily
Robinson, with a menacing gleam in his eye, spiked the ball with nine ticks left on the game clock and started to trot toward the sideline. He knew he didn’t need to finish this himself. Why? Michigan had seen this scene twice before. The first time was in the 11th hour of the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4, when Gibbons planted — from just one yard closer — and connected on the game-winning field goal in overtime to topple Virginia Tech. The second time was on Thursday. Running a situational offense in practice, the coaching staff gave the scenario that the Wolverines trailed by two. They just needed to get within Gibbons’ range. They did. He nailed it. This had become routine.
Michigan 12, Michigan State 10 - Touch the Banner
Well, that was terrifying. That was way too much of a heart attack game for my liking. I mean, I still liked the end result and everything, but that game was frustrating. Neither team could do anything consistently on offense, and I'm not convinced that it's because both defenses are great. Both defenses are very good, but the offenses are just so-so.
Dr. Sap’s Decals – Michigan State! - MVictors
DREW DILEO – I think Denard just found his own version of Jason Avant. Clutch catches in traffic – that’s big time! Maybe Dileo should wear #8 next year! And don’t forget his perfect holds and spots on field goals.
Five plays that changed the game - Maize and Blue News
Kovacs Provides a Spark – With Just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Michigan trailed 7-6 in the game with Michigan State. The Wolverines had picked up just 21 yards in three possessions in the second half, going three-and-out on the previous two attempts. With the Spartans once again creeping past midfield to challenge, senior safety Jordan Kovacs stepped up to change momentum in the game. Maxwell’s attempted third down pass was overthrown, allowing Kovacs to pick off his first pass of the season. While the Wolverines would have gotten the ball back with any incompletion and punt, and while an illegal block diminished the impact of the return, the play changed the atmosphere in the stadium and seemed to spark the offense. After struggling for much of the half, the Maize and Blue marched to within three yards of the goal line, before settling for a field goal to reclaim the lead.
Michigan 12, MSU 10: Kneejerk Reactions - The Only Colors
1) Close but no cigar. Again. For the third loss in a row, you can point to any number of plays that could have been the difference. The missed FG. Getting stopped at the goal line late and settling for the FG. (I think it was the right call at that point - get the lead and put your faith in the defense to make it hold up - but as with the FG that was missed, going for it isn't indefensible either.) Dropped long balls that could have gone for touchdowns or at the very least set up another FG attempt or two. The spot on the Michigan third down at the end - was his knee down or on top of another player? Hard to tell with the angles that we saw. The incomplete pass that stopped the clock and gave Michigan an extra timeout to work with when we were trying to grind clock after forcing the punt. Any one of those could have swung the game.