Despite a brief Twitter spat between their head coaches and fans. Both Michigan State University and The University of Michigan’s football teams enjoyed the reward of participating in a post-season bowl game. While there was some spirited discussion about who deserved what. The football programs of the states two largest universities were each featured on national television against quality opponents.
Michigan State, 9-3 during the regular season, was invited to play in the Holiday Bowl on December 28th in San Diego. MSU faced the Washington State Cougars, also 9-3, from the Pac-10 conference. After building a 21-3 halftime lead on a balanced air and ground attack. The Spartans pulled away to a 42-17 victory, giving them a 10-win season.
Quarterback Brian Lewerke threw for 213 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also rushing for 73 of the Spartans 227 yards on the ground. Running back L J Scott led a cast of 7 different ball carriers with 110 yards on 18 rushes, scoring 2 touchdowns. MSU’s defense held the Cougars to just 24 rushing yards. Washington State completed 39 of 50 passes. But, only found the end zone twice in posting 272 passing yards for Cougar Coach Mike Leach.
For Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio, 2017 represented a strong comeback from a 3-9 season in 2016. After going 13-1, 11-2, and 12-2 from 2013-15, last years campaign was a major disappointment. The bowl win was Dantonio’s 100th victory in 11 seasons at MSU.
When Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh took over the Wolverine’s football program prior to the 2015 season he was hailed as the Messiah in Ann Arbor. After 7 years of mostly mediocre results under Brady Hoke and Rich Rodriguez, Harbaugh was to lead U of M to College Football’s promised land. Despite 10-3 seasons in 2015 and 2016 both campaigns ended with losses to arch-rival Ohio State.
This year the Wolverines reeled off 4 straight wins before losing to Michigan State for the second time in Harbaugh’s 3 years. Losses to Penn State, Wisconsin, and again Ohio State left Michigan 8-4 and unranked in the polls. Still, they were invited to play South Carolina (8-4) in the Outback Bowl in Tampa on New Year’s Day.
After taking a 9-3 lead to the locker room at halftime Michigan built the lead to 19-3 with just over 5 minutes left in the third quarter. Quinn Nordin’s fourth field goal of the day gave the Wolverines the 16-point lead. Following the kickoff, South Carolina drove 77 yards in 6 plays for their first touchdown of the game. A 2-point conversion try failed leaving the Gamecocks with a two score 10-point deficit.
On the Wolverines next possession, Michigan quarterback Brandon Peters fumbled. South Carolina recovered on U of M’s 21-yard line. One play later the Gamecocks had pulled within 3 after a Jake Bentley pass to Bryan Edwards in the end zone. Despite giving up 2 quick scores Michigan still led by 3 points. Unfortunately, the wheels came completely off in the fourth quarter.
A fumbled punt and interceptions on 2 ill-advised passes by Peters allowed South Carolina to put the game away with another touchdown and field goal in the final quarter. Ending the year 8-5 left Michigan fans with a bitter taste in their mouth. Not what was expected from the coach they already ordained as a legend.
Big-10 Goes 7-1 in Bowl Games
To add insult to injury, 8 Big-10 teams earned bowl bids this postseason and 7 conference teams posted wins before Michigan suffered the leagues only defeat. Will Michigan fans grow tired of their heralded head coach if 2018 produces more of the same? Mark down these key dates on next year’s Wolverine schedule. September 1st’s season opener at Notre Dame, plus road games at Michigan State October 20th, and at Ohio State November 24th. Should be fun to watch!
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