CARLOS OSORIO / AP Enlarge
ANN ARBOR - It's pretty safe to say No. 6 Michigan should move up in the national polls after dominating in-state rival Michigan State for a comfortable 31-13 victory yesterday afternoon in a Big Ten Conference matchup before 111,349 at Michigan Stadium.
Unlike the last two meetings between the longtime Michigan foes that required overtime, this one didn't come with a thriller ending.
The Wolverines took care of business early, and by the time the fourth quarter rolled around there was no doubt who would possess the Paul Bunyan trophy for another year.
Michigan (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) put 17 points on the scoreboard before halftime and never looked back. The Wolverines took a 31-7 lead into the fourth quarter on their way to making a strong case for top-5 ranking consideration, particularly since second-ranked Auburn lost at home to unranked Arkansas.
"When you start the season it's always one of the games that you point to because it means so much to everyone associated with both schools," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.
Chad Henne and Mike Hart led the Wolverines' balanced attack. Henne completed 11 of 17 passes for only 140 yards, but three of the completions went for touchdowns. Hart rushed for 122 yards on 22 carries to establish early that Michigan would be able to move the ball on the ground.
"I just do what they give me," said Hart, who gained 92 of his yards on 18 carries before halftime. "If I have to run someone over I'll run them over. If I have to make them miss I'll make them miss."
For Michigan State coach John L. Smith, the contest turned into another afternoon of frustration. The Spartans (3-3, 1-1 Big Ten) dropped their third straight contest after being guilty of 11 penalties for 87 yards and turning the ball over twice.
"First, give them [Wolverines] a lot of credit for what they did," Smith said. "They're a good football team. We would have had to play a lot better than we did.
"We made too many mistakes and too many penalties."
Michigan, which rolled up 351 total yards, scored immediately. Henne directed a 10-play scoring drive that covered 60 yards.
Henne had a fumble ruled an incompletion by the replay official on the ninth play of the drive, and took advantage of the second chance by finding Adrian Arrington open in the back of the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown on the next play.
Michigan scored on the first drive of the second quarter as well. This time it only took three plays to score. After two running plays by Hart, Henne went to his favorite deep threat, Mario Manningham, for a 41-yard touchdown pass and a 14-0 lead.
Garrett Rivas nailed a 24-yard field goal with less than two minutes to play in the half to give Michigan a 17-0 advantage.
"I thought our defense was outstanding in the first half," Carr said. "I thought our offense did a good job of being very disciplined not to turn the football over in a game like that."
Henne and Manningham gave Michigan a 24-0 lead when they connected on a 27-yard touchdown completion with 11:22 left in the third quarter.
Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton completed 20 of 35 attempts for 252 yards and scored on a two-yard run.
"I thought we did some good things offensively, but we hurt ourselves with penalties," Stanton said.
"That's as good of a football team there is in the nation and they've got some momentum going and playing in front of that crowd."
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