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Wolverines Win Backyard Brawl Against Struggling Spartans

Updated: Apr 29, 2023

Phillip Lutz, Guest Writer

Michigan celebrates with the Paul Bunyan Trophy after the game. Photo//Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The #4 University of Michigan Wolverines finally settled the score against the Michigan State University Spartans on Saturday under the lights at the Big House. The game was only in doubt for a couple minutes as the Wolverines used the running game to stomp the Spartans for a 29-7 rout and returned the Paul Bunyan Trophy to its rightful place in Ann Arbor.

For the past 364 days, the Wolverines and the Wolverine faithful heard how the Spartans under coach Mel Tucker have destroyed Michigan the past two seasons. Last season, the Spartans were the only blemish on a Wolverine season to be remembered for the ages, one which included Michigan’s first trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Title and their first trip to the College Football Playoff.

The Wolverines had enough of the Spartans' talk and decided to settle it on the field.

Midway through the first quarter, the Wolverines, behind sophomore quarterback J.J. McCarthy and the pinball-like running of junior running back Blake Corum, moved the ball down the field and into MSU territory. Kicker Jake Moody put the Wolverines in front 3-0 as he hit the first field goal of the game.

Spartan quarterback Payton Thorne then had a drive that would quiet the Wolverine faithful, throwing it all over and also using his legs. Thorne hit Keon Coleman two times on the drive, one for 29 yards and the second for a crushing 26-yard touchdown. Coleman’s catches were due in part to Michigan defensive back Gemon Green not turning his head on either throw. If Green turned his head, he could have deflected or intercepted the passes.

The Spartans had the lead 7-3. It was their only lead of the game.

The Wolverines again highlighted the passing game behind McCarthy, hitting senior tight end Luke Schoonmaker twice, one for 18 yards and the other for 24 yards. Corum also contributed on the ground with a 17-yard scamper and a two-yard touchdown run minutes later. Moody’s extra point made it 10-7 in favor of Michigan.

Thorne and the Spartans moved the ball on their next drive, including receptions by Coleman of 22 and 27 yards. They failed to get points on a fourth down play, as they were dropped for a two-yard loss. This gave the ball back to the Wolverines on the Michigan 5-yard line.

Corum moved the Wolverines deep out of their territory with a 16-yard run to give them breathing room. Sophomore running back Donovan Edwards started to heat up on the drive. McCarthy also made some plays with his legs as well, with runs of 21 yards and 16 yards. Moody added another field goal, giving the Wolverines a 13-7 lead.

With time ticking in the first half, Thorne and the Spartans did not move the ball. He was sacked hard at the Michigan State 27-yard line. He got up, ripped off his helmet, and went directly to the sideline. The half ended with Michigan leading 13-7.

The second half kick went to Michigan and saw a Corum run for 17 yards. The Wolverines tried to move the ball through the air and on the ground, but, besides a roughing the passer call on the Spartans, they were not able to get much traction. Moody hit a 39-yard field goal to add to the Wolverine lead, 16-7.

The following Wolverine drive saw another 12-yard run by Corum. McCarthy also hit wide receiver Ronnie Bell for a 29-yard gain deep down the middle of the field. Corum and Edwards added small runs, but Moody tacked on a 33-yard field goal. It was now a 19-7 Wolverine lead.

As the fourth quarter began, a couple incomplete passes from McCarthy led to another Moody field goal. This time from 54 yards out, leading to chants about how Moody should be the Detroit Lions kicker next year. Michigan was comfortably out in front, leading 22-7.

The Spartans then took over looking for some magic. However, on a fourth down, the Spartan punter had trouble with the snap. The Wolverines special teams tackled him for a 21-yard loss, turning the ball over on downs.

Michigan then started their drive on MSU’s eight-yard line. Corum had two attempts at the endzone and finally punched it in for a four-yard score. He struck the Paul Bunyan pose in the endzone after the run. The Wolverines were now up 29-7 after the Moody extra point.

Both teams exchanged punts. Thorne then hit Coleman again for a 51-yard gain. Thorne was also able to hit Barker for a nine-yard gain, but it was unfortunately brought back after Barker was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty after the play.

Things were getting chippy between these rivals, especially from MSU’s sideline.

The Spartan drive ended with a Thorne interception by sophomore DB Rod Moore. This pretty much put this game to a close.

Corum left the field to a great applause with a couple minutes remaining. The Wolverines ran two more run plays, draining the clock and ending the game.

As the game was ending, the Spartan players on the field tried to start a scuffle with Michigan players, but the referees and Michigan staff seemed to break it up.

Corum was seen running around the field with the Paul Bunyan Trophy wearing Corum’s helmet. The Wolverine players were happy and celebrating. The Spartan players were quickly exiting the stadium. Some stayed to congratulate the triumphant Wolverines.

After the game was over and most of the Wolverine players were on the field, two Wolverine players were rushing up the tunnel to the locker room. They were not greeted well by the angry Spartan players. One of them was Green, who looked out of uniform. The other was sophomore DB Ja’Den McBurrows in uniform.

Videos taken by reporters and also a mom of one of the Wolverine recruits showed Spartan players assaulting the out of uniform Wolverines. One video showed a Spartan player hitting one of the Wolverine players with his helmet. The other video on Twitter and the Big Ten Network showed multiple Spartan players assaulting a lone Michigan player, then throwing him to the ground as a police officer and Wolverine worker were trying to intervene.

Coach Jim Harbaugh and Athletic Director Warde Manuel were seen later in the press conference visibly shaken. They did not reveal too much, but they said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren and the university police department were handling the situation. Harbaugh said his players were “assaulted” in his post game comments.

On Sunday, Michigan State indefinitely suspended four of its players: linebacker Tank Brown, cornerback Khary Crump, safety Angelo Grose, and defensive end Zion Young. Further punishment is not out of the question as the investigation is still ongoing.

The #4 Wolverines (8-0) will travel to Piscataway, New Jersey next Saturday to play the Scarlett Knights of Rutgers University (4-4). Kickoff is at 7:30 PM.

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