Spartans humanize Denard Robinson, make it three straight against “big brother”

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 26: Kirk Cousins #8 of the Michigan State Spartans looks to pass the ball against the Wisconsin Badgers on September 26, 2009 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Michigan State might be changing the pecking order in Michigan. With its third straight win today against Michigan, the Spartans may be soon taking control of the moniker “big brother.”

In a battle of unbeaten teams that had captured the undivided attention of most of the state, the Spartans put in a fairly dominant performance against Michigan at Big House, winning 34-17. It’s the first three-game winning streak in the series for Sparty since the 1960s, and this one was definitely the sweetest of the three.

Michigan State’s ability to move the ball on Michigan — to the tune of 536 yards of total offense — wasn’t a surprise. What the Spartans defense did to Heisman Trophy front-runner Denard Robinson, however, was.

Robinson had 84 yards rushing on 21 carries, which for him might as well have been negative yardage. It was his performance through the air, though, that put the biggest dent in his Heisman campaign, and — dare I say it — cost Michigan the game. Robinson not only threw three interceptions, but he also missed on a couple of would-be big plays in the passing game. Granted, his receivers didn’t really help him out a ton — Roy Roundtree dropped a perfectly thrown touchdown pass — but it was proven today that Robinson still struggles when he’s forced to make proper reads and deliver a pass in a tight spot.

So how did the Spartans do it? They have great linebackers, but it was some great play up front at times that helped corral Robinson before he could get started — which is always the key with him. They also decided at times that even if they didn’t get him right away, they weren’t going to let him break a big run. This resulted in a few trips to the red zone for the Wolverines, which is apparently their kryptonite. Their offense is predicated on getting athletes in space, winning one-on-one speed battles and breaking the big one. When the defense can collapse on them in a confined space like we saw today, they aren’t nearly as effective.

But back to the Michigan defense, which continues to be an absolute disgrace. It started out strong, but the Spartans ground attack eventually overwhelmed Michigan, gaining 261 yards, including 149 from Edwin Baker.

Going forward, Michigan State has a very manageable schedule. Ohio State is absent, and the biggest hurdle remaining is a road game at Iowa. Granted, that’s a pretty big hurdle, but the Spartans going 12-0 is not at all out of the realm of possibility. How’s that for little brother?

Michigan, meanwhile, has Iowa at home next week, a team that has the defensive front to stop Robinson, and enough offense to put up a lot of points against Michigan. Illinois no longer looks like a gimme for the Wolverines, and the finishing games with Wisconsin and Ohio State will be real tough. Eight wins is a definite possibility — maybe probability — but then again, so is seven. And does 7-5 keep Rich Rodriguez in Ann Arbor for another year?

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