Michigan football's run game, defense dominates Michigan State, 29-7

Chris Solari
Detroit Free Press

Paul Bunyan isn’t leaving Ann Arbor.

Mel Tucker isn’t perfect against his rival anymore.

But Jim Harbaugh and No. 4 Michigan continued their unblemished season with a dominating second half to pull away from tougher-than-expected Michigan State on Saturday night.

Blake Corum scored twice, Jake Moody kicked five field goals, and the Wolverines’ defense held the Spartans without a first down on their first three drives of the second half en route to a 29-7 victory.

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Michigan running back Blake Corum is tackled by Michigan State safety Angelo Grose during the first half half on Saturday, October 29, 2022, in Ann Arbor.

Michigan (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) heads to Rutgers next Saturday for a second straight 7:30 p.m. kickoff (BTN). The 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 U-M’s head coach.

MSU (3-5, 1-4) travels to No. 18 Illinois next Saturday, with game time and TV network to be determined. It was Tucker’s first loss against the Wolverines in three seasons.

It is the 115th meeting in the series that dates to 1898, with U-M now holds a 72-38-5 advantage all-time. The Wolverines are 39-29-2 in Big Ten games after taking the 70th meeting for the Paul Bunyan Trophy.

Blake Corum had 33 carries for 177 yards and a touchdown for U-M. J.J. McCarthy was 15-for-25 for 167 yards and a score. Michigan won the time of possession, 39:46 to 19:27. The Wolverines outgained the Spartans on the ground, 271-37.

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MSU quarterback Payton Thorne was 17-for-30 for 215 yards, a touchdown and an interception. His favorite target was Keon Coleman, who had five catches for 155 yards and a TD.

MSU’s opening drive started promising but fizzled with four straight penalties, forcing the Spartans to punt. They got the ball quickly when Xavier Henderson forced a fumble by stripping the ball from U-M receiver Cornelius Johnson that Dashaun Mallory recovered.

Michigan defenders Junior Colson and Mike Morris (90) sack Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne during the first half half on Saturday, October 29, 2022, in Ann Arbor.

It didn’t matter. MSU struggled to move the ball and went for on fourth-and-inches at the 46. Running back Elijah Collins initially was ruled to have barely made the first down, but replay ruled he was stopped short by a half-yard shy and the Wolverines took over on downs.

Michigan moved down the field to the Spartans’ 4-yard line, but MSU’s defense shored up and held Corum and McNamara out of the end zone. A Jake Moody 22-yard field goal made it 3-0 Wolverines with 2:20 left in the first quarter.

After Tucker lit into 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 the drive with a 12-yard run, and then on third-and-8 lobbed a jump ball that Coleman — who also plays for MSU’s basketball team — leaped up and snatched away from cornerback Gemon Green for a 29-yard gain.

Two plays later, Thorne again sent one deep to Coleman, who again outjumped Green to snag the ball and spin 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 opening quarter.

Michigan answered with an eight-play, 80-yard drive in which McCarthy hit tight end Luke Schoonmaker for 18- and 24-yard pickups, along with a flea-flicker pass to Ronnie Bell for 13 yards. Corum ran in the sophomore quarterback’s flip pass for a 2-yard touchdown to make it 10-7.

However, the Spartans looked poised to answer again, with Thorne again converting a key third down to Coleman for 27 yards and following it up with a 22-yard connection to the sophomore receiver on the next play. But on fourth-and-1 at the U-M 5-yard line, MSU elected to go for it instead of kicking a potential tying field goal. Jalen Berger was stuffed for a 2-yard loss on a delayed handoff, giving the ball back to the Wovlerines.

McCarthy led a time-consuming 86-yard drive that took 6:23 off the clock, capped by Moody’s 25-yard field goal to make it 13-7 Michigan with 1:08 before halftime.

The Wolverines reclaimed the Paul Bunyan Trophy after their 29-7 win over the Michigan State on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, in Ann Arbor.

MSU tried to attack in the final minute but Thorne got sacked on the final play, appearing to get hit in the helmet with no call by the refs as time ran out.

U-M held a 245-189 edge in total yards at half, including 13 carries for 76 yards from Corum and 110 yards on 9 of 14 passing 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 had 55 rushing yards on 17 attempts and did not turn the ball over.

Moody added a pair of field goals in the third quarter, from 39 and 33 yards, at the end of time-consuming U-M drives. The Spartans’ offense began sputtering, going three-and-out on their only two possessions of the quarter, and the Wolverines had a 133-8 edge in third-quarter total yards as MSU had the ball for just 2:10.

After a 54-yard Moody field goal to open the fourth quarter, the Spartans again couldn’t move the ball on their next possession. Backup long snapper Michael Donovan sent a second straight snap high, and MSU punter Bryce Baringer got dropped for a loss of downs at his own 8. Corum scored two plays later on a 4-yard run to deliver the Wolverines’ first win in the rivalry since a 44-10 win at Michigan Stadium in 2019.

Thorne and MSU seemed to find a little rhythm late in the fourth quarter, thanks to a 51-yard pass over the middle to Coleman. But Thorne tried another over-the-middle pass to Coleman that Rod Moore intercepted, slamming the door on MSU.

Contact Chris Solari:csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari.

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