Michigan State has flexed its muscle in the third quarter, continuing its dominance with the offensive line and giving Kirk Cousins excellent protection, as the Spartans scored twice to take a 21-7 lead over Michigan.
Cousins and receiver Keshawn Martin hooked up twice on scoring plays, with Martin taking short passes and running them in, reaching just around the pylon as he was being pushed out of bounds. The first touchdown went for 10 yards, finishing off Michigan State’s first drive of the third quarter. The second score essentially ended the quarter, after the Spartans defense forced a three-and-out with relentless pressure on Denard Robinson.
Michigan State may have had yet another touchdown on their second possession of the third quarter, but was thwarted by a turnover. Edwin Baker broke free for a 21-yard run and may have been on his way to a touchdown with only one defender (who was ready to be blocked) in his path. But Baker looked to have dropped the ball and Michigan recovered.
In perhaps the most important development of the third quarter, the Wolverines couldn’t capitalize on Baker’s fumble. The Spartans got excellent pressure on Robinson, giving him no room to run nor time to pass, ultimately forcing Michigan to punt. Not getting at least a field goal when they were given the ball in Spartans territory was a crucial missed opportunity for the Wolverines. Michigan State got the ball back and scored its second touchdown of the quarter.
Perhaps in an attempt to give Michigan State’s defense a different look, Michigan has played Devin Gardner more since falling behind 21-7. However, it’s difficult to imagine the Wolverines generating much offense against a Spartans defense that looks to be getting stronger. Not with Robinson throwing the ball so poorly, anyway.