EAST LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Leading up to the backyard rivalry, the NCAA launched an investigation into the Michigan Wolverines for allegedly stealing signs from opponents.
While that could have been distracting, Michigan didn’t show it on the field.
The Wolverines (8-0) cruised to a 49-0 victory over Michigan State (2-5) Saturday, controlling the game from start to finish.
It was Michigan’s second win in a row against the Spartans and its first at Spartan Stadium since 2018.
The shutout was the first since 2000 for Michigan against MSU. Overall, it was the largest margin of loss for the Spartans at home in the history of their program.
“Let’s go blue” chants rained down from the stands to open the second half as the stadium started to clear out. This was a game the Wolverines wouldn’t forget for a long time.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh said his group has done a great job staying focused despite all the outside attention.
“There are people who don’t like to see people be successful,” Harbaugh said. “There’s been a target (on our back) since the beginning of the season. Our guys are very focused and just go about their business. We still gotta get back to Ann Arbor, wake up tomorrow and take care of business again.”
From the start, the Wolverines were not fazed. Michigan went 12 plays for 84 yards, converting on all three third downs to take the early 7-0 lead thanks to a Blake Corum 1-yard touchdown rush.
The Spartans did have a chance to change momentum early, going for it on fourth and two from midfield. However, the Wolverines stopped them a yard short and took over in plus field position.
The Wolverines made their rival pay. J.J. McCarthy found his go-to man Roman Wilson for a 25-yard touchdown reception to go up 14-0. The game already felt like it was getting away from MSU.
It indeed was, as the Wolverines would open the game with 28 unanswered points in the first half, the third and fourth touchdowns coming on 22-yard receptions from Colston Loveland.
To open the second half, Michigan really set fuel to the fire. Senior Mike Sainristil intercepted MSU quarterback Katin Houser for a 72-yard pick-six, making it 35-0.
On the same play, MSU’s Spencer Brown speared a Michigan player with his helmet in the head and was disqualified from the game. Frustrations were running high on the MSU sideline. The Spartans were penalized 11 times for 102 yards.
“You can’t have all these mistakes and penalties against a Top 10 team that is coached as well as them,” MSU Head Coach Harlon Barnett said. “We also had 11 penalties against Washington. We can’t keep beating ourselves — it’s much different if they really beat you.”
Michigan was led by McCarthy all night in what was arguably his best game of the season. He threw for 287 yards on 21-for-27 passing with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. The junior quarterback had a QBR of 216.
Harbaugh couldn’t say enough about his effort to help keep the Paul Bunyan Trophy in Ann Arbor for another year.
“(McCarthy) is just so dangerous when he is out of the pocket and keeps his eyes downfield,” Harbaugh said. “It is a double-edged sword with J.J. McCarthy. He can beat you in so many ways.”
It was also a great night for Michigan’s tight ends: A.J. Barner, who had 99 yards receiving with a score, and Loveland, who had 79 yards and two touchdowns.
While the Wolverines will continue their quest to win a third consecutive Big Ten Conference title, MSU will try to regroup and find answers after its fifth consecutive loss.
“We have to keep fighting. That’s what I believe,” Barnett said. “There are some guys who are really passionate in that locker room, guys that want to win. I love this group even though we’re not getting the results we want right now.”
McCarthy said he was proud of his group for keeping the noise to a minimum outside of the Michigan locker room.
“We do a tremendous job of staying in the present moment and controlling what we can control,” McCarthy said. “We know this is a special group and we strive to get better every day.”
“All the outside allegations against Coach Harbaugh, that doesn’t do anything to us because we are just there trying to have fun playing ball with our boys,” he continued. “We keep it very simple, and the main thing the main thing.”