ANN ARBOR, MICH. - In sometimes-monsoon conditions, Michigan State brought the storm to No. 7 Michigan. And survived one.
And a bobbled snap once again provided the Spartans with a memorable play.
Facing third-and-3 with 2:13 to play, Brian Lewerke dropped a shotgun snap, picked it up off the turf and took off to his left. The sophomore quarterback dove, rolling over center Brian Allen and Michigan’s James Hudson.
It was just MSU’s second first down of the second half. But it was enough to snatch a second straight win at Michigan Stadium.
The Spartans fought back the Wolverines’ second-half counter attack, forcing five turnovers and holding on to grind out a soggy 14-10 victory Saturday at Michigan Stadium.
MSU took a 14-3 lead in the opening half, dominating U-M up front. However, the Spartans did not get a first down in the second half until 2:54 remained in the game.
That proved to be a critical one, a 3-yard Brian sneak that kept the chains and clock moving. He picked up the second one three plays later.
Michigan got the ball back with 34 seconds left, and the MSU defense held on despite a nearly costly late hit by Chris Frey. John O'Korn's last-second heave was knocked down in the end zone, sparking MSU's celebration.
David Dowell had a pair of interceptions, Joe Bachie had one and MSU recovered two fumbles.
Lewerke threw for just 94 yards on 11-for-22 passing, but he led MSU with 61 rushing yards and had one of its two TDs. Without running back LJ Scott, who was dressed but did not have a helmet on the sideline or play, the Spartans rushed for 158 yards against the Wolverines’ No. 1-ranked run defense. They had 112 of those in the first half.
That makes eight wins in the last 10 meetings against U-M for MSU (4-1, 2-0 Big Ten), which travels to Minnesota next week for an 8 p.m. kickoff (BTN).
MSU coach Mark Dantonio has never lost two in a row to the Wolverines (4-1, 1-1).
U-M moved the ball with ease on its opening drive, marching 64 yards in 16 plays that took 6:56 off the clock. But the Spartans’ defense knotted up and forced Quinn Nordin to boot a 30-yard field goal that gave the Wolverines a 3-0 lead with 8:04 left in the first quarter.
MSU’s ensuing drive stalled, but the Spartans’ defense made it a quick turnaround three plays later. Bachie ripped the ball away from U-M running back Karan Higdon, and Frey pounced on it in Wolverines territory.
Six plays later, Lewerke took off running under pressure and found a seam in the left side of the Michigan defense. He dove for the end zone, absorbed a hit from three Wolverines and reached the ball over the goal line for a 14-yard touchdown run to put MSU ahead, 7-3, with 2:59 left in the opening period.
MSU running back Gerald Holmes left the game after an apparent ankle injury early in the second quarter. Madre London took over for the rest of the half.
Lewerke struggled early, completing just 1 of 6 passes early. But he completed five straight on the Spartans’ second scoring drive. That included a 30-yarder to Darrell Stewart, and Lewerke made a 5-yard run for a first down to get them to the U-M 16.
On the next play, Lewerke faked a jet sweep to Stewart and set up a screen to London, who took it the distance behind two blockers and a lot of open field with 8:07 left in the second period. MSU carried that 14-3 lead into halftime.
Lewerke was 6-for-14 for 74 yards passing and ran four times for 28 yards in the opening half. London had five carries for 59 yards before intermission.
MSU’s defense also sacked O’Korn three times in the opening period. That gave the Spartans 12 for this season, one more than last year’s total. O’Korn was 10-for-19 for 112 yards despite that, but U-M’s two fumbles were costly.
MSU’s special teams had major issues early in the third quarter to cost the Spartans field position, first Andre Welch’s east-and-west kickoff return that included a hold to start them at their own 7 to begin the second half. And then fellow true freshman Laress Nelson muffed a punt that pushed MSU back to its own 2 after a three-and-out by the defense.
But the Spartans couldn’t hold Michigan off a second time, with O’Korn throwing 16 yards to Grant Perry and Khalid Hill’s 1-yard run pulling the Wolverines within 14-10 with 8:09 left in the third quarter.
From there, MSU went conservative on offense and punted the ball to play field position, trusting its defense to salt away a rain-soaked victory
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