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Michigan Football: 3 takeaways from heart-wrenching loss to MSU

In a battle that lived up to the hype of two prominent programs throwing haymakers in East Lansing, Michigan State topped Michigan football in an instant classic.

Michigan football couldn’t have asked for a hotter start with Payton Thorne throwing an interception on the opening series. A few snaps later Michigan hit the jackpot with a 93-yard touchdown gallop by a freshman, and East Lansing native Andrel Anthony.

It was the beginning of plenty of big things to come for the young wideout in his hometown.

The Spartans didn’t roll over and die though. They fought back to take the lead thanks to Heisman-worthy running back Kenneth Walker. The lead was short-lived however because Michigan football nabbed the edge at halftime with another Anthony touchdown grab, this time from fellow freshman, J.J. McCarthy.

In the third, Michigan looked in control by scoring to widen the gap to 16. Once again though Michigan State would not give up. Walker found the endzone for back-to-back scores to even things up at 30. With 12 and a half minutes remaining the outcome of this epic confrontation was completely up for grabs.

Michigan responded with its first points since it went up by 16 with a field goal. The defense got a crucial stop and the offense got the ball back and McCarthy uncharacteristically turned the football over on the ensuing play.

It was all the Spartans needed to retake the lead with the fifth and final game-sealing touchdown by Walker. The offense got the rock back, McNamara gave it right back to end the hopes of any comeback.

Here are three takeaways.

1. Michigan’s run defense was decimated by Kenneth Walker

All the buzz that Kenneth Walker has been garnering this year was significantly worth it today. He ran roughshod through a formidable defense coming into the contest. He proved to the worldwide audience that he is arguably the best running back in the nation by gashing the maize and blue defenders.

Walker notched 197 yards and a whopping five touchdowns on the afternoon. He created lots of missed tackles and found holes to push through Mike MacDonald’s vaunted unit.

Michigan State won’t admit it, but he was also helped out a ton by loads of missed, egregious holding calls that impacted the outlook of the game.

Michigan’s defense did the opposite of what it did in last year’s meeting. They got sliced and diced by the pass, but this time it was the run that sealed their fate.

Michigan’s remaining opponents will try to copy that same success the Spartans had to identify their weakness when they meet up with them in the last month of the schedule.

2. Cade McNamara played his paramount game besides one errant throw

Cade McNamara left no doubt that he is the No.1 guy on the depth chart today. He truly did everything that you can ask for. His criticism was worth it coming into the battle, but after this close loss, it’s clear that he gives Michigan football the best chance to win now no matter what anybody thinks or says about it.

McNamara was a yard shy of matching Shea Patterson’s output in 2019. He put the ball where it needed to be for his receivers to come down with it on several passes.

McNamara took what the defense gave him and was able to put his offense in scoring situations, but did make one mistake that ended the comeback chances of Michigan with a minute to play.

J.J. McCarthy was sprinkled in and out of the loss as usual. He made some splash plays, but he will be remembered for turning the ball over in crunch time when Michigan had the game in their hands.

He lost the rock on Michigan’s last scoring drive and fumbled on the next series that led to the go-ahead score for Michigan State.

Harbaugh later said it was due to an injury to McNamara on the last series.

3. Michigan remains in the foremost discussion despite losing

Believe it or not, Michigan football is still in the thick of things when it comes to the Big Ten and the national conversation.

The Wolverines should stick within the top 10 of the College Football Playoff rankings, that come out this Tuesday because the outcome of the affair was so nip and tuck. That doesn’t mean they control their own destiny — they have to win out and hope things fall their way in the polls.

Michigan football has two winnable games with Indiana and Maryland, and two that it will be underdogs in, against Penn State and Ohio State.

This defeat will sting for a long time despite what happens the rest of the season. Michigan had Michigan State on the ropes and couldn’t finish the job when it was all on the line.

That’s a pill that no one wants to swallow following such a tragic loss.

Winning out will not be in their favor because the Wolverines still have to prove that they can win a showdown that they are not supposed to win on the road.

All will be forgiven and forgotten if Jim Harbaugh and company can save face by finally beating Ohio State for the first time in 10 years, but I wouldn’t bet my life on it.


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