Michigan Sends MSU -- And Dantonio? -- Packing: 'It Was Time For Them To Leave'

"They didn’t deserve to be in our stadium."

Will Burchfield
November 16, 2019 - 6:49 pm

© Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press, Detroit Free Press via Imagn Content Services, LLC

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For Josh Metellus, the day began with a speech to his teammates. And it ended with some words for his rivals, as he waved the Spartans off the field following the most lopsided game in this rivalry in almost 20 years. 

Michigan 44, Michigan State 10. 

Michigan 9-2, Michigan State 4-6.

This felt like a statement, like a seismic shift of the status quo. The gap between these two teams hasn't been this wide in a long time. Michigan's headed one way and Michigan State's headed the other, and it's not clear who or what might change that. It almost surely won't be Mark Dantonio. If Saturday was his last stand, he and his team were cut off at the knees.

None of this seemed lost on the Wolverines, who played like a group going for the kill. 

"Just going off how they've played this season and how we've been playing these last couple games, we knew we could do it. It doesn’t have to be close," said Metellus. "It's football. If you execute the right way the majority of the plays, you win by big margins like this." 

It wasn't a blowout from the jump, because it never is in this game. The Spartans led 7-0 late in the first quarter. It was all Wolverines from there. They pulled ahead in the second, grew their lead in the third and then poured it on in the fourth, the deluge ending with a 39-yard touchdown pass from Shea Patterson to freshman Cornelius Johnson with 2:33 to play. 

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Metellus and a few of his teammates came face to face with a crowd of Michigan State players. And Metellus, who will finish his career with a 3-1 record against the Spartans, was happy to motion them toward the exits. 

"I was telling them to go home. It was time for them to leave. They didn’t deserve to be in our stadium," he said. "I was just trying to wave them good-bye, because some of them wanted to stay on the field and it was our time to shine."

For each of the last four years, the Paul Bunyan trophy has swapped hands. The Wolverines hadn't held onto it since a six-year run that ended in 2007, and they hadn't claimed it at the Big House since 2012. They put an end to that on Saturday and then paraded the trophy onto the field, senior linebacker Khaleke Hudson carrying it high above his head. 

Before Michigan's co-captain took it to the student section, he brought it to Shea Patterson. 

"Man, just having the Paul Bunyan trophy in our hands again for another year and just being able to run around with it on the field, show it to our fans and to celebrate with the team -- I was going toward the 'M' (at midfield) and I saw Shea doing an interview with FOX, so I just wanted to give him a chance to take it all in," Hudson said. "Give him a chance to see the trophy and to celebrate with us." 

If this year's clash wasn't as close as usual, it was just as chippy. There were personal fouls and unsportsmanlike penalties, heightened by a stringent officiating crew. Michigan State defensive end Jacub Panasiuk was ejected in the fourth quarter for a late hit on Patterson. Jim Harbaugh said he was pleased with the way Michigan kept its composure, and Metellus agreed. 

Then he took a shot at the Spartans, with the refs no longer in earshot. 

"I feel like we’re way classier than them. They tried to take it to a level that wasn’t playing football. We play football over here. I don’t know what they do over here, but we play football," said Metellus. 

What was it like between the lines? 

"On our side it was real physical," Metellus said. "I feel like this defense especially, we made a statement today. We were playing real physical and it was to the point where we were playing too physical (for them), and they tried to do stuff after the play when we weren’t looking and stuff like that.

"It just showed today that we were the better-prepared team, and we came out and wanted to execute more than they did."

For years under Dantonio, Michigan State had the upper hand in this rivalry. That included a 7-1 stretch from 2008-15. Then Harbaugh arrived and balanced the scales, and now he's tipping them in Michigan's favor. He improved to 3-2 against Dantonio, and won for the first time at the Big House.

Harbaugh was quick to note that every member of his team now has a winning record against Michigan State. 

"Happy, really happy," he said. "It’s a big game. It’s for the state championship, 112th version. And now our team, everybody that’s in that locker room has the advantage. The fifth-year seniors are 3-2, the seniors are 3-1, the juniors are 2-1, the sophomores are 2-0, the freshmen are 1-0. It’s a big program win."

It was thorough, as Harbaugh likes to say. It left little doubt as to where the two teams stand, both now and moving forward. Michigan State may well rise again, but it's not clear when or how. The state currently belongs to Michigan, just as the floor belonged to Metellus, surrounded by his teammates prior to kickoff. 

"I was just telling everybody to play their heart out," he said. "It's a big game and we needed everybody on the sideline, we needed everybody on the field to play as hard as they could. I just tried to make sure everybody was willing to do whatever to win this game."