ANN ARBOR - While somehow maintaining a straight face, Roy Roundtree suggested that Connecticut, Notre Dame, Massachusetts, Bowling Green, or Indiana - perhaps even more than one - have a defense comparable in talent to the one Roundtree and his University of Michigan teammates struggled against Saturday.
"I don't want to say the best defense [we've faced]," Roundtree said of Michigan State. "We had opportunities to score. They just stopped us."
Roundtree, a receiver, is correct about one thing. The offense, for the first time all year, wasn't smart or reliable when approaching the end zone. The defense once again wasn't reliable either, and it all added up to a 34-17 setback at home.
Three Denard Robinson interceptions and a rash of botched assignments by the defense are the biggest reasons UM (5-1, 1-1) will not be unbeaten entering the second half of the season, which begins Saturday against Iowa.
It is now three straight years the Wolverines have lost to their instate rival, which hasn't happened since 1965-67. The 17-point deficit is the worst UM has absorbed against MSU since losing 34-0 in 1967.
The Spartans (6-0, 2-0) broke open the game with points on five consecutive possessions during the second and third quarters, turning a 10-7 deficit into a 31-10 lead. UM was a mess during that span, allowing a pair of 41-yard touchdowns and a 61-yarder by running back Edwin Baker that kicked things off to put MSU ahead 7-3.
"I'm just disappointed we didn't play better," UM coach Rich Rodriguez said. "Our guys played hard but we didn't play well. [MSU] played well."
Robinson played his worst game in six as a starter. As a rusher, he had a miniscule - by his standards - 4.1 yards per carry, totaling 86 yards on 21 carries. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the season on an eight-yard run in the fourth quarter but followed one play later by throwing a pass that was intercepted by Chris L. Rucker at MSU's 27.
Robinson's other two miscues were even more damaging as both occurred in the end zone. The first, a lousy throw easily picked off by Trenton Robinson, ended a promising opening drive to the game. The second, in the third quarter, was thrown behind Junior Hemingway on a slant route and into the hands of Johnny Adams.
Overall, Robinson completed 17 of 29 passes for 215 yards. He threw for one touchdown, finding tight end Martell Webb sneaking freely into the flat for a 12-yard score to put UM ahead 10-7 in the second quarter.
Although Robinson's play was not consistent with his recent performances, his post game demeanor - smiling widely - did not change because of his first loss as a starter.
"I got too excited," Robinson said of the pass intended for Hemingway. "Wide open man and I missed him."
Earlier in the game Robinson overthrew Darryl Stonum, open in the end zone, and the Wolverines settled for a field goal.
Robinson also was displeased at the way he ran the ball. The nation's leading ground gainer entering the game, Robinson was mostly kept in check and recorded a long rush of just 16 yards.
"I kind of hesitated a lot," he said. "My blocks were there, but I just kind of hesitated."
Like most thought they would be, the Spartans were balanced offensively, totaling 287 yards passing and 249 rushing. Baker (22 carries, 147 yards), Le'Veon Bell (seven carries, 78 yards) and Larry Caper (eight carries, 34 yards) each scored a rushing touchdown, and quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for 284 yards and a score.
Perhaps the game's biggest play came early in the third quarter when Mark Dell flew by cornerback Cullen Christian, who had just entered the game for an injured James Rogers, and reeled in a 41-yard TD pass from Cousins to make the score 24-10.
"Today, they just got the best of us," Roundtree said. "They got us today."
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While somehow maintaining a straight face, Roy Roundtree suggested that Connecticut, Notre Dame, Massachusetts, Bowling Green, or Indiana - perhaps even more than one - have a defense comparable in talent to the one Roundtree and his University of Michigan teammates struggled against Saturday.