Michigan defenders Kenny Demens, 25, Jibreel Black, 55, Thomas Gordon, 30, Craig Roh, 88, and Jake Ryan, 47, swarm to stop Michigan State's Tony Lippett.
ANN ARBOR — In his last two games, Jordan Kovacs didn’t appear to be playing up to speed. One of Michigan’s more consistent defenders, he’d been hovering in the vicinity of a career milestone. However, the former walk-on from Clay High School has been wearing a brace for the last three games — and only registered three tackles in two games prior to Saturday’s 12-10 win over Michigan State.
Not to say that one is directly related to the other, but over the course of two weeks, Kovacs wouldn’t directly answer questions about the brace, shrugging off the presence of the apparatus.
“It’s a fashion statement,” Kovacs said at the start of the week leading up to the rivalry tilt.
Would it be safe to say that Kovacs was dressed for success?
Saturday against the Spartans, Kovacs registered his 300th career tackle. Kovacs’ milestone came late in the first quarter, when he teamed with Thomas Gordon to stop Michigan State tailback Le’Veon Bell at the end of a six-yard run.
But in the grand scheme, the 300th was insignificant to Kovacs.
“A stat’s a stat,” said Kovacs, who finished with five tackles against the Spartans and intercepted Michigan State quarterback Andrew Maxwell in the third quarter. “I don’t care about individual statistics. I’m glad we played well enough defensively to win the game.”
Kovacs is currently 15th on the list of career tackles for Michigan with 304. Ron Simpkins, who played at Michigan from 1976 to 1979, is the career leader with 516 tackles.
DILEO STANDS TALL: Wolverines receiver Drew Dileo is listed at a generous 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, but the junior has played to a bigger stature. In Saturday’s win, Dileo finished with four catches for 92 yards, including a 20-yard grab with less than 20 seconds left that put the Wolverines on the Spartans 21 and helped set up Gibbons’ game winning field goal.
“Denard [Robinson] got a little pressure and scrambled, and I continued running my route and went kind of through coverage,” Dileo said. “We knew their [defensive backs] didn’t really cover once the quarterback started scrambling, and I just kind of got open and he found me, and he put a good ball in my hands.”
Dileo was also the holder when Brendan Gibbons lined up to kick the game-winning field goal with five seconds left.
“I held in high school for two years, so it comes natural to me,” Dileo said. “To have Jareth Glanda as the snapper and Brendan, we had complete faith he was going to make the kick.”
900 AND COUNTING: Michigan earned its 900th win in the program’s history, but like Kovacs, Michigan coach Brady Hoke didn’t put a huge amount of stock in the mark.
“I don’t know if [the players] realized it,” Hoke said. “It wasn’t a point of focus during the week.”
DRESSED IN GREEN: Michigan State tight end Dion Sims dressed for Saturday’s game and took warmups at Michigan Stadium, two weeks after he injured his ankle against Indiana and a week after he sat out the Spartans’ loss to Iowa in East Lansing, Mich.
Sims, however, didn’t factor into Saturday’s loss.
Spartans tight end Paul Lang stepped in for Sims and scored the only touchdown of the game — a two-yard reception midway through the third quarter that gave the Spartans a 7-6 lead.