Michigan shows off championship-level defense in 21-7 win over Michigan State

Michigan wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones (9) runs for a 79-yard touchdown run during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Michigan State, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Michigan wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones (9) runs for a 79-yard touchdown run during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Michigan State, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

It wasn’t always pretty, but it was effective.

Michigan, after enduring a lengthy rain delay, put forth another dominant defensive effort in a 21-7 win over rival Michigan State in East Lansing.

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The No. 6 Wolverines limited the 24th-ranked Spartans to a measly 94 yards of offense, with MSU quarterback Brian Lewerke managing to complete just 5-of-25 passes for 66 yards. And while the defense smothered the Spartans, Shea Patterson and the Michigan offense did just enough to pull away from MSU in the second half.

The Wolverines completely controlled things in the first half, but could only go into the break with a 7-0 lead. And it looked like some wacky East Lansing magic could be in the air when a Michigan fumble and a trick play allowed the Spartans to tie the game at 7-7.

But later in the third, Michigan finally made a big play. Patterson found Donovan Peoples-Jones behind the defense down the right sideline and hit him in stride. Peoples-Jones broke a tackle and went the rest of the way for a 79-yard score.


The Patterson-to-Peoples-Jones connection gave Michigan a 14-7 lead, and the defense took it home from there. Michigan State would muster just 51 yards for the rest of the game while the Michigan offense took more than 13 minutes off the clock on its next two drives, one of which ended in a Ben Mason touchdown run.

Though it was Mason who got the score, Karan Higdon was the workhorse for UM, as he has been all year. Higdon rushed for 139 yards on a career-high 32 carries. As a whole, the Michigan offense rushed for 183 yards. Entering Saturday, Michigan State boasted the No. 1 rush defense in the country, averaging just 62.3 yards per game.

Michigan takes another step toward the College Football Playoff

Since dropping its opener to Notre Dame, Michigan has reeled off seven straight wins, putting itself in the thick of the College Football Playoff conversation. The first five games of the winning streak were against unranked opponents, but the Wolverines showed the last two weeks that they are for real.

Last week, Michigan destroyed No. 15 Wisconsin at home in a defensive effort that was similarly impressive. Sure, Wisconsin and Michigan State aren’t offensive juggernauts, but the Wolverines made it feel like they were facing FCS offenses. It’s the kind of defense that can carry you on a championship run.

And that’s what Michigan is on. After a bye, the Wolverines will welcome No. 18 Penn State to Michigan Stadium with a trip to Rutgers and a visit from Indiana to follow. If UM makes it through that slate unscathed, it could set up a winner-takes-all matchup with No. 2 Ohio State in Columbus with the Big Ten East title and a College Football Playoff berth on the line.

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