EAST LANSING—The second trip to Michigan State for Michigan coach Brady Hoke was eerily similar to the first.
In 2011 the Wolverines kept things tight for a half of football against the Spartans before Michigan State eventually put it away in the second half.
Saturday, it was much of the same and in some respects even worse for Michigan, losing 29-6 while being shutout in the second half and failing to score a touchdown.
“I think our kids played hard,” Hoke said afterward. “I didn’t think we executed very well and there’s eight to six plays in a game like this that are going to make a difference.”
Hoke added, “We didn’t execute as well as they did.”
Michigan punted the ball eight times Saturday (7 times in 2011), went 2-for-13 in third down situations (3-for-15 in 2011) while Michigan State converted 50-percent of their third down opportunities (same as in 2011).
A topic of discussion for the entire season, Michigan’s rushing attack was again ineffective as the Wolverines ran the ball 29-times for a school-record negative 48-yards, a lot of which came on sacks of quarterback Devin Gardner and a high snap that sent the Wolverines back into their own territory in the second half.
Senior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint ran 8-times for 20-yards.
“A lot of negative yardage plays,” Hoke said. “There were some pretty good runs once in a while in there but you know you snap the ball for a 20-yard loss, you get sacked I don’t know how many times so your yardage part of it isn’t very good.
“You put your self behind the eight ball a little bit, not executing, and then you’re forced into doing some things you don’t want to do the whole time.”
Gardner’s day started out promising, looking sharp and completing passes downfield to both Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess on the opening drive. After that, aside from a 58-yard completion to redshirt freshman wide out Jehu Chesson, Gardner’s day was a struggle, in large part because of his protection.
Gardner was sacked seven times for a total loss of 49-yards while completing 14-of-27 pass attempts for 210-yards and an interception.
Gardner was pulled for Michigan’s last drive of the game as freshman Shane Morris saw some snaps, appearing down and physically exhausted after being hit several times throughout the afternoon.
Morris finished completing 1-of-3 passes for six yards.
“He (Gardner) got pounded a little bit,” Hoke said. “He was a warrior out there that last drive before the interception at the end and did a nice job getting us down the field, had taken a lot of shots earlier in the game, and, he just, a little bit worn out.”
Pressed further Hoke added, “I wouldn’t say (it’s) an injury, I’d say beat up. If that’s an injury then that’s an injury.”
Appearing to be headed into halftime all tied up at six, Michigan State went on a 10-play, 75-yard drive lead by sophomore quarterback Connor Cook, ending with a 14-yard passing touchdown to senior wide out Bennie Fowler.
The Spartans score with 23-seconds left in the half made the score 13-6, at the break.
“That was a disappointing drive there at the end of the half,” Hoke said. “You always, it drives you crazy, you give up points right at the end of the half and, it was disappointing.”
Coming off a bye week allowing extra practice time in preparation for Saturday’s game against Michigan State, Hoke appeared to expect a different football team than he saw in the loss.
“Does it surprise me? Yeah, it surprises me,” Hoke said. “It has nothing to do with two weeks, it just surprises me.”