EAST LANSING - Behind the nation's top-ranked defense, Michigan State pounded rival Michigan, 29-6, Saturday at Spartan Stadium.
No. 24-ranked Michigan State used 120 yards rushing from Jeremy Langford, including a 40-yarder in the final minutes, and a punishing defensive effort in improving to 8-1 overall and taking control of the Legends Division with a 5-0 conference record.
No. 23-ranked Michigan fell to 6-2 and 2-2 in the Big Ten.
The Spartan defense held Michigan to minus-48 yards rushing, thanks in part to seven sacks. That's the worst rushing total in Michigan football history.
Michigan QB Devin Gardner found success at times passing between the 20-yard lines, but was held to 210 yards overall through the air, on 14 of 27 passing (1 INT).
MSU's Connor Cook was 18 of 33 for 252 yards with 1 passing TD, 1 rushing TD and 1 INT.
Senior linebacker Denicos Allen led the Spartan defense with nine tackles and three tackles for loss. Allen had two sacks.
A humble MSU head coach Mark Dantonio sampled George Perles poetry and teachings in getting the Spartans ready for this year's in-state battle.
"Don't worry about all the things that are being said - just keep your mouth shut," Dantonio said, when asked what message he had for his players as the game approached. "Get ready to play, start the game and finish stronger than when you started. We were going to let the lion out of the cage at 3:30, and that's what happened."
This after the Wolverines had vowed Saturday wouldn't be a repeat of the game in East Lansing in 2011, when Michigan State's physicality was too much for Michigan.
"Two years ago was nothing," Michigan State linebacker Denicos Allen said. "It was a lot worse today, and I think they felt it."
Michigan State has won five of the last six meetings with the Wolverines, and this was the Spartans' most lopsided win in the series since 1967.
"We're going to bully people - that's the game of football," Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said. "We didn't want any personal fouls - we had one stupid one, I think on special teams at the end - we talked really about not getting any penalties. ... They've got a good football team, but we've got a great football team."
Michigan State entered ranked No. 1 in the nation in total defense, and the Spartans looked positively dominating for most of the game. Gardner was sacked four times in the first quarter, and things only got worse for the Wolverines on one drive in the second.
On first down from the Michigan State 49, a shotgun snap sailed over Gardner's head for a loss of 20, as Wolverine center Graham Glasgow caught a case of the yips while MSU showed (another) blitz.
After a sack on third down and a Michigan penalty, the Wolverines finally punted on fourth-and-48.
"A lot of negative yardage plays. There were some pretty good runs once in a while, but when you snap the ball for a 20-yard loss and get sacked I don't know how many times, your yardage part of it isn't very good," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "You put yourself behind the 8-ball, not executing and then you're forced into doing things you don't want to do."
Thanks to the sacks and that bad snap, Michigan finished the first half with minus-41 yards rushing. The Wolverines' best hope was for Gardner to look for big chunks of yardage on deep passes. He completed a few, including a 58-yarder to Jehu Chesson that set up a field goal in the second quarter.
With the score tied at 6-6, Michigan State's offense finally broke through, driving 75 yards on 10 plays for the game's first touchdown. It came on a 14-yard pass from Cook to Bennie Fowler on a pretty post-corner with 23 seconds left in the half.
Fowler's sliding catch came in the same back corner of the end zone where he was unable to hold onto a potential touchdown pass earlier in the quarter.
The second half was more of the same. Michigan State kicker Michael Geiger nailed his third field goal of the day, making it 16-6. The Wolverines were stuck deep in their own territory for much of the third quarter.
Michigan finally caught a break when a Cook pass was intercepted by Michigan corner Raymon Taylor, giving the Wolverines the ball at the Michigan State 41. But that only gave the Spartans another chance to shine on defense.
"We're excited to play, we're excited to go out there," linebacker Max Bullough said. "In those situations, they think they have the advantage. They think they're going to score, it's a momentum change for them. If we go out there and we stuff them, and we keep them out of even scoring a field goal, it's double. It takes away theirs and it gives us momentum."
Gardner lost 5 yards on a blown-up zone read keeper, then Allen sacked him for a loss of 9 on second down. Michigan called a timeout prior to third down, and several Spartans danced to the sideline, motioning for the crowd to make more noise.
Gardner was sacked again on the next play for a loss of 7, leaving the Wolverines punting on fourth-and-31 to start the fourth quarter.
Michigan's previous low point for rushing was in 1962, when the Wolverines were held to minus-46 yards by Minnesota. The Wolverines have now lost 10 straight road games against ranked opponents - the last victory was in 2006 at Notre Dame.
The last team to be held to minus-48 yards rushing was actually Michigan State, which had exactly that total against Alabama in the 2011 Capital One Bowl. Saturday, the Spartans looked like a Crimson Tide level of defense.
This was Michigan State's most lopsided win over Michigan since a 34-0 victory in 1967, right before the Wolverines gained the upper hand in this rivalry and held onto it for about four decades. The Spartans have certainly pushed back lately.
The minus-48 yards rushing is the fewest rushing yards allowed by MSU under Dantonio and tied for the third fewest allowed in school history (school record -63 rushing yards by Pittsburgh in 1960; -60 rushing yards by Pittsburgh in 1981; -48 rushing yards by Northwestern in 1983).
The Spartans recorded season highs in tackles for loss (11 for 65 yards) and sacks (7 for 49). MSU recorded tackles for loss on the last three plays of the third quarter.
MSU has held all nine of its 2013 opponents below 100 yards rushing. In 88 games under Dantonio, MSU has held its opponents under 100 yards rushing 44 times (50 percent).
Michigan State has held Michigan without a touchdown for eight consecutive quarters (129:49 time elapsed). The Wolverines have produced just five field goals over the last eight quarters.
Michigan State's defense hasn't allowed a touchdown in the last three games. MSU's last TD allowed was against Indiana in the fourth quarter.
Michigan State limited Michigan to 12 first downs, minus-48 yards rushing and 168 total yards. Michigan gained 51 yards on the game-opening drive and managed just 117 yards on its next 11 possessions. The Wolverines went just 2-of-13 third-down conversions.
Michigan State outgained Michigan in rushing yards, 142-(-48). The team with the most productive ground attack has won 41 of the last 44 games in the series. Over the last six meetings, the Spartans have outrushed the Wolverines by 609 yards (1,080-471).
Michigan State is off to a 5-0 start in Big Ten play for the first time under Mark Dantonio and for just the third time in school history (1965, 1966).
The Spartans have won 37 of their last 48 games (.771), dating back to the beginning of the 2010 season.
Under Mark Dantonio, Michigan State has produced a 37-11 record (.771) in home games, including a 15-game winning streak (7-0 in 2010, 7-0 in 2011, won first game in 2012).
Under Mark Dantonio, Michigan State is 43-8 (.843) when leading in time of possession, including a 30-5 record (.857) since 2010.
Under Mark Dantonio, Michigan State is 48-11 (.814) when outrushing its opponent, including a 32-4 record (.889) since 2010.
Langford recorded his fourth-straight 100-yard rushing game, with a career-best 26 carries for 120 yards against Michigan. He became the first 100-yard rusher against the Michigan defense this season. Langford is averaging 116.0 yards rushing over his last four games (464 yards).
Cook recorded his fifth 200-yard passing game of the season, completing 18-of-33 throws for 252 yards, one touchdown and one interception against Michigan.
Sophomore fullback Trevon Pendleton set career highs with two receptions for 62 yards against Michigan, including a career-long 49-yard grab from Connor Cook.
Denicos Allen set season highs for tackles for loss (3 for 20 yards) and sacks (18) against Michigan. Allen also matched his season high with nine tackles against the Wolverines. He also recorded nine stops at Notre Dame. Allen moved into fourth place on MSU's all-time list with 40.5 career tackles for loss.
Shilique Calhoun recorded career highs in tackles (6), tackles for loss (3 for 19 yards) and sacks (2.5 for 17) against Michigan. Calhoun has produced a tackle for loss in each of his last eight games.
Sophomore linebacker Ed Davis set career highs for tackles (4) and sacks (2.5 for 14 yards) against Michigan.
Senior Darqueze Dennard recorded his ninth career interception, picking off Gardner's second-down throw at the MSU 3-yard line with 6:23 left in the game. Dennard also was credited with four tackles and forced a fumble.
Junior punter Mike Sadler averaged 40.8 yards on five punts against Michigan, including three kicks placed inside the U-M 20-yard line.