Paul Bunyan is not leaving Ann Arbor.
Mel Tucker is no longer perfect against his rival.
But Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan No. 4 continued their unblemished season with a dominant second half to pull away from tougher-than-expected Michigan State on Saturday night.
Blake Corum scored twice, Jake Moody scored five field goals and the Wolverines defense held the Spartans without a first down in their first three second-half drives en route to a 29-7 victory.
RAINER SABIN:Michigan has proven it’s the state’s program on an upward trajectory
Michigan (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) heads to Rutgers next Saturday for a second straight kickoff at 7:30 p.m. (BTN). Wolverines last won their first eight games in 2016, when they started 9-0 in Harbaugh’s second season. He improved to 4-4 against the Spartans as UM head coach.
MSU (3-5, 1-4) travels to No. 18 Illinois next Saturday, with playing time and TV network to be determined. It was Tucker’s first loss to the Wolverines in three seasons.
This is the 115th meeting in the series dating back to 1898, with UM now holding a 72-38-5 all-time advantage. The Wolverines are 39-29-2 in Big Ten games after winning the 70th meeting for the Paul Bunyan Trophy.
Blake Corum had 33 carries for 177 yards and a touchdown for UM. JJ McCarthy was 15 for 25 for 167 yards and a score. Michigan won possession time, 39:46 to 19:27. The Wolverines beat the Spartans on the ground, 271-37.
POST-MATCH FIGHT:Michigan and Michigan State players have postgame altercation in tunnel
GREATEST GAME:Michigan football’s 4th try in the first half is pivotal moment in 29-7 win
MSU quarterback Payton Thorne was 17 for 30 for 215 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His favorite target was Keon Coleman, who had five catches for 155 yards and a touchdown.
MSU’s opening practice started promising but fell through with four straight penalties, forcing the Spartans to punt. They got the ball back quickly when Xavier Henderson forced a fumble by taking the ball away from UM receiver Cornelius Johnson which Dashaun Mallory picked up.
It didn’t matter. MSU struggled to move the ball and went for the quarter and inches at 46. Running back Elijah Collins was initially ruled to have barely made the first down, but the replay ruled he had was stopped by half a yard shy and Wolverines got the better of the downs.
Michigan moved upfield to the Spartans 4-yard line, but MSU’s defense reinforced and held Corum and McNamara out of the end zone. A 22-yard field goal from Jake Moody made Wolverines 3-0 with 2:20 left in the first quarter.
After Tucker lit up in his offensive line during the timeout after the score, the Spartans quickly responded and took the lead as Thorne and Coleman guided them down the field. The junior quarterback opened practice with a 12-yard run, then on third-and-8 lobbed a popped ball that Coleman – who also plays for MSU’s basketball team – pounced and ripped off to cornerback Gemon Green for a 29 yard gain.
Two plays later, Thorne again sent one deep to Coleman, who once again passed Green to grab the ball and drive past defensive back Makari Paige into the end zone. Ben Patton’s extra point put the Spartans up 7-3 with 23 seconds left in the first quarter.
Michigan responded with an eight-play, 80-yard drive in which McCarthy hit tight end Luke Schoonmaker for pickups for 18 and 24 yards, as well as a flickering flea pass to Ronnie Bell for 13 yards. Corum ran in the sophomore quarterback’s return pass for a 2-yard touchdown to make it 10-7.
However, the Spartans looked set to respond again, with Thorne again converting a key third to Coleman for 27 yards and following it up with a 22-yard connection to second receiver on the next play. of UM’s 5 yards, MSU opted to go for it instead of kicking a potential tying field goal. Jalen Berger was pissed off for a 2-yard loss on a delayed transfer, handing the ball back to the Wovlerines.
McCarthy led a time-consuming 86-yard drive that fell 6:23 behind, capped off by Moody’s 25-yard field goal to make it 13-7 at Michigan with 1:08 before halftime.
MSU tried to attack in the final minute but Thorne was sacked on the final play, appearing to be hit in the helmet with no call from the referees as time ticked away.
UM held a 245-189 advantage in total yards at halftime, including 13 carries for 76 yards from Corum and 110 yards on 9 of 14 passes from McCarthy.
Thorne was 10 of 13 for 134 yards at halftime, with four of his passes going to Coleman for 104 yards and the TD. MSU rushed for 55 yards on 17 attempts and did not return the ball.
Moody added a pair of field goals in the third quarter, from 39 and 33 yards, at the end of long UM drives. The Spartans’ offense began to sputter, going three-and-three on their only two possessions in the quarter, and the Wolverines had a 133-8 advantage in total yards in the third quarter as MSU had the ball for just 2:10. .
After a 54-yard field goal from Moody to open the fourth quarter, the Spartans again couldn’t move the ball on their next possession. Relief long snapper Michael Donovan sent a second straight hit, and MSU punter Bryce Baringer was waived for a loss of downs to his own 8. Corum scored two plays later on a run of 4 yards to deliver the Wolverines’ first victory in the rivalry since a 44-10 victory at Michigan Stadium in 2019.
Thorne and MSU seemed to find some rhythm late in the fourth quarter, thanks to a 51-yard pass through the middle from Coleman. But Thorne attempted another pass over the middle to Coleman which Rod Moore intercepted, slamming the door on MSU.
Contact Chris Solari:email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari.
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