Michigan dropped a fourth straight to Michigan State, this time 28-14 in East Lansing behind 167 yards from running back Edwin Baker. U-M head coach Brady Hoke liked his team's resolve, but said there were many things he wasn't pleased with.
A 7-7 tie turned into a 21-7, third quarter deficit on poor tackling along with offensive mistakes and missed opportunities.
"They out-coached us and outplayed us, and we've got to do a much better job of coaching this football team in a lot of ways," Hoke said. "Our kids, I think they fought when they were down. I thought they responded well, and to be honest, I don't think they ever thought they were going to lose the game until the game was over."
The first drive of the second half, in which a short squib kick gave the Spartans a short field and a missed tackle on third down gave them a touchdown instead of a field goal, was one of the turning points.
"First of all, the kickoff, where they got the ball didn't help," Hoke said. "We were trying to squib it, because kicking that way, we didn't think we would get exactly what we wanted depth-wise. He just hit it probably not as well as he'd like to have hit it.
"… I don't think we tackled well at all, and then we still had a chance. We didn't tackle very well, they executed the drive, two third down conversions in there, maybe three - you've got to be in a position to stop it.
"The play at the end where they scored, I don't know if you can be in a better defensive call."
Receiver Keshawn Martin, atoning for a few dropped passes, slipped out of cornerback J.T. Floyd's tackle at the three for the go-ahead touchdown.
The biggest miscue, though - beyond a pair of MSU fumbles that helped the Wolverines stay in the game - was a fourth and inches call at the Michigan State nine with 6:16 remaining. U-M had cut MSU's lead to 21-14 on a 34-yard touchdown from Denard Robinson to Roy Roundtree and was poised to tie it when offensive coordinator Al Borges called play action.
Robinson was sacked for a 10-yard loss.
"We've gotten many first downs with that play, the same play, where the guy jumps, we send one guy in motion," Hoke said. "A bunch of touchdowns, too. It was just an extension of the play."
One on which Hoke tried to call timeout.
"I saw the 25-second clock going to zero. I think we got away with one, to be honest with you," he said.
"You sneak it and run the power play … there are multiple things you could do. But we've been very successful the last two years on that same play. Al makes the call. I'm the one who said go for it."
The Spartans punted three plays later, but all but ended the game when Isaiah Lewis returned a Robinson interception 39 yards for a score with 4:31 remaining.
"He made some things happen in there a couple times, and he always plays exciting, with a whole lot of energy," Hoke said. "On the interception, I don't know what he saw. I thought he held in there."
Just not well enough to snap U-M's losing streak against the Spartans.
Robinson left the game on a late hit by MSU freshman end Marcus Rush, the Spartans' fifth personal foul penalty. Robinson seemed fine in the postgame but gave way to sophomore Devin Gardner for the last four-plus minutes.
"He got beat up a little bit, yeah," Hoke said.
Asked if he thought it was a dirty play, he responded, "I have no clue. I didn't see it to be honest with you. My eyes were on the field. I really don't know what [the injury] is yet."
Michigan's running backs managed only 44 yards on 10 carries, but Hok wouldn't blame the backs.
"Well, to get it out of our running back group, we've got to get it out of our front a little better, first, from an offensive standpoint," Hoke noted. "There were some opportunities maybe we missed a little bit, but at the same time I'm not sure how much movement we got consistently at the line of scrimmage."
Hoke felt Robinson and the offense were ready to play.
"I thought our kids prepared well all week," he said. "We had the two penalties in the first half for the delays, and those are some communication things we've got to do a better job with."
Hoke wouldn't bite when prodded by the media about MSU's perceived dirty play, including a punch thrown at Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan by Spartans' end William Gholston.
"I don't know," he said. "Shoot, I'm worried about Michigan."
He wouldn't comment on the Gholston play other than to say he didn't see it.
"I don't know how they played dirty. I mean, they had some personal fouls on late hits on the quarterback, but you can get those all the time," Hoke said. "[But] I don't know if we got beat up. I think they were physical, and this game always is physical."
Gardner played significantly more snaps than he has in past games, completing three of seven passes for 45 yards. He was sacked three times.
"We thought we may do some of that, and part of that, what pushed it over a little more, I think it was a windy day," Hoke said. "I think Devin at times can throw the ball a little more accurately."
Two of Michigan's bigger running plays came with Gardner behind center and Robinson running on the jet sweep. Hoke said he didn't feel Michigan got too creative.
"I don't know about that. I think there are some elements in there, when Denard carries the jet sweep around there, it's pretty dangerous," he said. "He's about two steps from breaking both of them for home runs."
Michigan State notched seven sacks and brought pressure for most of the second half.
"They're overloading you a little bit. Mark [Dantonio] does a good job. Mark's a good coach, a good defensive coach. Believe me, his fingerprints are all over that defense," Hoke said. "They overloaded us a little bit, they hit their timing well, they do a nice job of jumping snap counts. They did things the way you're supposed to,
"There was more competition probably at the line of scrimmage when you look at receivers getting off and running routes. I don't think we ran bad routes. I won't know that until we watch tape. And then obviously [Robinson] was pressured a little bit."
Hoke said he'd let this loss sink in before moving on.
"They need to feel this one. We all need to feel this one for a while, but we'll turn the page," he said. "I expect them to act like a Michigan football team, and that means they are going to come to work."
Lewan headed to the team bus limping with an ice pack around his ankle.
"There's not a healthy guy in that room. Everybody's beat up," Hoke said. "That's just part of football. I think this bye week is probably at a good time
"They've been beat up all year. It's just part of football."