ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Rocky Lombardi threw for 323 yards, including 196 to Ricky White, and three touchdowns to help Michigan State stun No. 13 Michigan 27-24 on Saturday.
The Spartans (1-1, 1-1 Big Ten) appeared to be the better team all afternoon on both sides of the ball in Mel Tucker’s debut as coach in the rivalry.
Tucker became just the second coach to beat Michigan in his first attempt with the Spartans, joining Alabama coach Nick Saban, who did it in 1995. The former Colorado coach started his career as a graduate assistant for Saban and the Spartans.
The Wolverines (1-1, 1-1) were favored to win by more than three touchdowns. Jim Harbaugh’s team, though, never led and didn’t appear to have much energy in front of family and friends in their mostly empty stadium that holds 110,000-plus fans when there isn’t a pandemic.
Running back Hassan Haskins scored on a 2-yard run with 37 seconds left to help Michigan pull within three points. The onside kick was recovered by Michigan State running back Connor Heyward and Lombardi converted a fourth-and-2 from the Michigan 36 with a sneak to seal the victory.
Lombardi completed 17 of 32 passes and Heyward caught two of his TD passes. White, who averaged 24.5 yards on eight receptions against a shaky secondary, also scored on a catch.
Late in the first half, a pivotal play helped the Spartans helped pull off the upset.
Linebacker Antjuan Simmons, playing across the street from where he played in high school, broke up Haskins’ pass in the end zone intended for tight end Carter Selzer. The Wolverines settled for a field goal that cut their deficit to 14-10 late in the first half and that cost them four points in a game lost by three.
Michigan State: Tucker’s team bounced back from a seven-turnover setback in last week’s 38-27 loss to Rutgers with a signature win early in his tenure.
Michigan: Harbaugh has a lot of work to do to turn the team around, especially in the defensive secondary that was picked on early and often by the Spartans.
BLACK AND BLUE
Michigan, which had many players leave the field with injuries, lost two key players at the same position during the game: linebackers Cam McGrone and Michael Barrett. Offensive tackle Jalen Mayfield, who chose to play after initially opting out, also was hurt late in the fourth quarter.
Michigan State plays at Iowa on Saturday.
Michigan plays at No. 17 Indiana on Saturday.