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Michigan Fails In Just About Every Way Against MSU: A Recap Of Those Events

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Michigan struggled for the full 60 minutes against Michigan State on Saturday, and then Michigan struggled in the press conference and all through Sunday.

Leon Halip

1. #Stakegate. Mark Dantonio cited MIchigan's pregame staking of the MSU turf as another in a long line of slights and disrespects by UM to MSU.  Sure, Mark.  If that's the way you see it.

What I see, from the gif, to Hoke's initial reaction, to Hoke's statement is a desperate team trying everything it can to psyche itself up, and just like everything else, the whole thing goes off haphazardly and leaves everyone with a bad taste in their mouth.

Maybe the big problem is that Michigan as a program seems incapable of admitting that MSU irks it.  I think Chris Vannini sums it up the best:

RJ Williamson said on Spartan Sports Network after the game that saying it was "just another game" was disrespectful. So maybe it doesn't matter what Michigan does, and MSU will always have an edge in the rivalry. But the whole situation and its aftermath continue to paint the Wolverines as a program completely lost at sea and the Spartans as a bear you don't want to poke.

There is no indication that Michigan State is going to stop taking just about every action or inaction personal in this rivalry, so Michigan needs to adjust its mindset and reclaim a little bit of underdog mindset lest Mark Dantonio really add to his streak of dominating wins against Michigan.

The worst part is that these dust ups are becoming a weekly distraction.  The football program and AD is a performance art piece on bad public relations and general cluelessness.

2. Immovable Object v. Unstoppable Force. Court finds in favor of the force, Jeremy Langford.  Michigan has had issues on the ground to this point, namely vs. a pretty good (or so we thought) Minnesota offense led by David Cobb,  Langford matched that performance, going 177 yards in 35 carries with three touchdowns.  Michigan's normally stout front seven was gashed up and down by a Michigan State line that played very well.  The Spartans as a whole rushed for 4.8 yards per carry on the day and only had four negative plays all day for a loss of just 17 yards.

3. Immovable Object v. Another Object that should move but doesn't very often. Naturally, Michigan came up on the losing end on the ground, something that all but guarantees a loss.  Michigan was at least positive on the ground this year, an improvement over last year's debacle.  But 61 yards at 2.3 yards per carry isn't much of an improvement, especially considering that 49 of those yards came in the third quarter when Michigan State scored two touchdowns with two big plays leaving Michigan 10+ minutes of game clock with the ball (Michigan did not score in this quarter).

Both Justice Hayes (9-27-3.0) and DeVeon Smith (11-39-3.5) generally found a way to gain yards, with Smith actually having no negative gains on the ground.  But Michigan's longest run of the day was just 13 yards, and without a ground game to lean on, MSU was able to focus on making life hard for Michigan's passing game.

4. Breaking Gardner. At this point it is getting harder to see flashes of the Devin Gardner we used to get excited about.  I don't blame the young man.  Over the past two years he has taken as many hits as any quarterback in the country behind two incomprehensibly bad pass blocking offensive lines.  Gardner was never a calm technician like Peyton Manning, but at his best he was a loose, comfortable quarterback who was adept at building positive momentum in his play.  When Gardner starts out hot and the offense found success he could be magincal.  When the offense failed to score or played messy, his confidence would falter and mistakes would snowball.

This has always been Devin Gardner.  Some games you get the assassin, some games you get the nervous JV quarterback staring down receivers and throwing into double coverage.

At this point, the assassin is long gone.  Gardner is still capable of solid days, as the Rutgers and Penn State games proved.  However, he just doesn't have that same gear that pushes him to trancendence.  It could be Michigan's offense around him, but something is different, and Gardner's career looks like it is headed for a tragic end.

5. Air-Mailing It In. In the press conference after the game Brady Hoke explained away Michigan State's final touchdown, citing that everyone out there was competing.  It was unclear if he was also talking about himself.

Midway through the third quarter with Michigan down 21-3, the Wolverines elected to punt the ball despite having a 4th-4 from its own 43-yard line.  This drive came on the heels of the one that ended in a pick-six to push the Sparta lead to three scores.  Michigan needed points badly to stay in the game.

The punt went 27 yards and Connor Cook sent it 70 yards the other way to Tony Lippett to push Michigan State's lead up to 28-3.

One would think that for as much time as Michigan has spent in large deficits this year it would have figured out that the status quo wasn't going to get the Wolverines back in the game.

6. The Drops. To Devin Gardner's credit, there were a few catchable passes that he threw which he got absolutely no help on.  Funchess in particular had a lackluster day.

7. The End. I normally run these things to ten, but what point is there?

Is there much football to talk about?  Not that Michigan played.  The team looked discombobulated for most of the afternoon, and its biggest moment was a fourth quarter score that was meaningless in the game and only served to end a downward trend in Michigan's scoring that has been going since 2007.  This was a thing we were all legitimately excited about.

The football program is a mess and now bad games aren't even enough, PR disasters have become commonplace.  Michigan isn't going to fire Brady Hoke until after the season, especially now that the two prime opportunities to do so (after the losses to Minnesota and then Rutgers) have come and went.  The bye week is gone and Michigan just has to trudge through its next four games to get to a merciless end.

At one point in the game Saturday ESPN cut in with a score update from Arizona's game, leading to the obvious suggest-Richrod-for-Michigan joke.

This is what it has come to.  Michigan is now openly mocked by just about everyone, and rightly so.

Anything short of sweeping change this offseason will be a disappointment.  This thing we know as Michigan football is thoroughly broken.