It felt like another one of those games.
Weather reared its ugly head once again, just like last year. Hotdog wrappers swirled in the autumn wind, just like 2011. On the actual field, Michigan came away with only seven points despite four trips deep into Michigan State territory.
Raindrops started to fall, Chris Evans fumbled and Brian Lewerke caught a touchdown pass on the new trick play de jour. In a game the Wolverines dominated in yardage and field position, the score was somehow tied 7-7 in the third.
Shakur Brown and Shea Patterson then exchanged fumbles, the latter on another promising drive to the MSU 22-yard line. No one could be blamed for feeling this was playing right into Mark Dantonio’s hands.
Suddenly, Donovan Peoples-Jones sprinted right past sophomore Tre Person. 79 yards later, he snatched victory right back.
Shea Patterson finds Donovan Peoples-Jones and 80 yards later, he’s gone. pic.twitter.com/QaVToTUEgu— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) October 20, 2018
With a seven-point lead, the game was all but over. The Spartans mustered only 95 yards of offense to that point. The next four drives totaled -1.
The vaunted MSU rush defense — ranked No. 1 in S&P and raw numbers entering Saturday — started to wilt, as well. Ed Warinner’s line paved the way for 60 yards on nine carries the following possession — 33 of those from Karan Higdon.
In between poundings from Higdon, Shea Patterson punished over-aggressiveness with two 11-yard keepers, and Ben Mason punched in the final score from five yards out.
Peoples-Jones’ explosion not only sparked the offense, but demoralized the Spartan defense. 181 of Michigan’s 395-yard output on the afternoon came from that play forward.
After years of watching his teams eventually break Brady Hoke’s or Rich Rodriguez’s teams late, Dantonio experienced the familiar script reversed on him.
All he could do was watch Peoples-Jones morph into Paul Bunyan right before his eyes.