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What we learned from Michigan’s 29-7 victory over Michigan State

What should’ve been a satisfying-but-not-assuring night was muddied by a disgusting post-game situation.

Michigan State v Michigan Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

As I did the classic press member bob-and-weave through the throngs leaving Michigan Stadium Saturday, I was thinking about how to approach this article. Whether to focus more on offensive performances or second half adjustments in the defense, how to frame the Wolverines’ first victory against Mel Tucker in a historical context, all that good stuff.

By the time I reached the press conference room, however, everything had changed.

What should’ve been the end of this year’s tension between the Wolverines and Spartans has become just the beginning of what looks to be one of the rivalry’s most strained periods. As friend of MnB Anthony Broome put it last night:

The fact we’re talking like this after a rivalry win — one of the “big four” goals to Michigan’s players and coaches — is a sad state of affairs. Alas, we move on; there was still a game of football played Saturday night, and it was certainly an interesting one.

Michigan is 8-0 to start the season after a 29-7 victory. Despite the final score, you’d be correct in feeling it was never really that close:

While it wasn’t quite the country mile they put up two weeks ago, the rushing attack was once again stout. Blake Corum continues to be far and away the bell cow for the Wolverines, racking up 176 yards and a touchdown on 33 attempts, as well as a score on a 2-yard catch.

On the season, Corum has reached the 1,000 yard mark in just eight games. Among the last nine 1,000-yard rushers in recent Michigan history, here’s how Corum stacks up pace-wise:

Michigan thousand-yard rushing seasons through eight games

RB (Year) Attempts Yards TDs YPA
RB (Year) Attempts Yards TDs YPA
Denard Robinson (2010) 164 1,287 12 7.85
Mike Hart (2007) 215 1,188 12 5.53
Blake Corum (2022) 179 1,078 14 6.02
Mike Hart (2006) 214 1,032 8 4.82
Karan Higdon (2018) 173 962 7 5.56
Denard Robinson (2012) 131 946 6 7.22
Denard Robinson (2011) 135 825 10 6.11
Hassan Haskins (2021) 138 661 10 4.79
Fitzgerald Toussaint (2011) 98 561 6 5.72

To me, this says two things — Denard in 2010 was as beastly as you remember him being, and Corum is in some pretty rarefied company.

Of course, a majority of the attention from Saturday night will be the difficulty in finding the end zone; while points are points, a 5:2 field goal to touchdown ratio overall and 3:2 ratio in the red zone had fans banging their heads during and after last night’s game.

This has been a relatively recent turn of events all things considered — in their first three Big Ten games, the Wolverines were forced to kick in the red zone just twice, while scoring eight touchdowns. In the past two weeks, the script has flipped, being forced to kick seven times while finding pay-dirt four times.

While I wouldn’t be screaming from the rooftops about this just yet, it’s certainly something to keep an eye on as we creep closer and closer to the end of the season.

Defensively, Jesse Minter’s second half adjustments continue to be mana from heaven for this team. No matter what it seems the Wolverine defense is struggling in in the first half, Minter seems to concoct an answer to not only negate it, but prevent any other holes from popping up in the process.

If you want to get nitpicky, it’d be nice for those second-half adjustments to be part of the plan before the game, as there’s now been a string of games where the defense has started either sluggish or partially misaligned. Personally, I don’t think it’s a situation that will come back to haunt Michigan later down the line — as long as the offense can keep up their pace of putting any amount of points on the board during their drives.

All in all, you can never feel too uneasy about a rivalry win. While there are certainly things the Wolverines will need to clean up to quiet the doubters once and for all, this game in particular has a habit of having some puzzling decisions, and it’s hard to say how much was actual worries versus rivalry game jitters.

It’s just a shame that on this night, the most puzzling situation came off the field.