EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Shea Patterson threw two touchdown passes and No. 6 Michigan earned a desperately needed 21-7 win over No. 24 Michigan State on Saturday.
The Wolverines (7-1, 5-0 Big Ten) had lost eight of 10 against their in-state rivals and those setbacks have led to them not winning a Big Ten title since 2004.
The Spartans (4-3, 2-2) struggled to move the ball, getting held to 94 yards and failing to convert any of its 12 third downs.
Patterson’s 79-yard pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones put Michigan ahead late in the third quarter. He converted a fourth-and-2 from the Michigan State 41 early in the fourth, setting up Ben Mason’s 5-yard run that gave the Wolverines a 21-7 lead.
The Ole Miss transfer was 14 of 25 for 212 yards and made a successful debut in a series that has been tilted Michigan State’s way in part because of poor quarterback play. His 6-yard pass to Nico Collins broke a scoreless tie early in the second quarter and was Michigan’s first touchdown throw against the Spartans since 2011.
Michigan State needed a fumble deep in Michigan territory and a trick play to score once.
Chris Evans lost the football at the Wolverines 7 early in the third. Two plays later, quarterback Brian Lewerke caught a 4-yard pass from receiver Darrell Stewart off a reverse to pull the Spartans into a tie.
Michigan’s Karan Higdon had 144 yards rushing on 33 carries against the nation’s top-ranked rushing defense, which entered the game giving up an average of 62 yards on the ground.
LJ Scott returned from a leg injury to play for the Spartans after a four-game absence and ran for just 25 yards on 10 carries.
Lewerke was 5 of 25 for just 66 yards with an injury-depleted corps of receivers, which now includes Felton Davis after he was carted off during the game with an apparent Achilles tendon injury.
Michigan: Jim Harbaugh victory after entering the game 1-5 against rivals Michigan State and Ohio State. If the Wolverines beat No. 18 Penn State in two weeks, they will be set up for a showdown Nov. 24 at Ohio State.
Michigan State: Lewerke’s inconsistent play is slowing down an offense already hurt by injuries. He may have to hold off Rocky Lombardi, who played late in the game, to keep his job.
The Wolverines can’t move up too much, but they will have chances to do that against the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes next month. The Spartans will likely drop out of the poll.
Michigan: Off until hosting Penn State on Nov. 3.
Michigan State: Plays Purdue at home.