ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Michigan’s march towards the Big Ten Universities Championship took another stride forward Friday night when the Wolverines beat in-state nemesis Michigan State, 34-7.
“We got away with a win which is good, but we didn’t put out our best performance,” admitted Michigan Head Coach Brandon Sparks.
Michigan opened the scoring with a converted Drew Vecchio try, only to have the Spartans answer at the 24th minute when flanker Jacob Haviland got beyond the inline. Center Aaron Stuk converted the try to knot the game at seven, but that would be the last time the scoreboard operator would light up the visitors’ score.
After closing out the second half on a 10-0 run, Michigan’s impact sub Andry-Tohy Rakotovololona only needed two minutes to continue the scoring with a try to push the Wolverines’ lead to 24-7.
Rakotovololona is part of a group of back three players, including Copper Smart, Matthew Kasten, and full back Andre Cargill, who have really improved as a unit in recent weeks.
“Those four are starting to gel and add a dynamic piece to our attack,” Sparks said of the group.
Captain Joel Conzelmann, who totaled 14 points on the evening, would add a penalty kick and a conversion to prop Nicholas Fehrman’s try before Michigan began to clear its bench near the 60th minute.
The coaching staff for the Wolverines credit their developmental side’s spirited win over State’s B-side prior to the top-side clash for giving the A-side an emotional boost.
“Our developmental side came away with a win against a very good and very experienced Michigan State B-side,” Sparks said. “That win set the tone for the A-side, and got them fired up to go get their own win.”
While the loss drops Michigan State to 1-3, the win propels Michigan (3-0) to the top of the Big Ten Universities standings. That could all change in a matter of days when the Wolverines travel to Indiana University for what should be their stiffest test of the fall. The Hoosiers (2-0) have the second-best point differential in the conference after a 57-12 handling of Iowa last week, and are led by invaluable outside center Teddy Terezis.
Elsewhere in the Big Ten Universities Conference, Ohio State got back into Championship contention with a convincing 55-7 win over previously unbeaten Minnesota. The Buckeyes (2-1) were led by danger-man Joseph Eramo’s hat trick and fullback Taylor Hurff’s 15 total points.
This past weekend’s action out of the Big Ten Universities and the rest of D1A can be watched at D1A Rugby TV.