EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan had plenty of reasons to be motivated to beat Michigan State, barely defeating its in-state rival over the last decade and losing to every ranked team on the road for a dozen years.
The Wolverines, though, were even more fired up to win after a pregame spat with the Spartans.
Shea Patterson threw two touchdown passes and No. 6 Michigan earned a desperately needed 21-7 win over No. 24 Michigan State on Saturday, ending a streak of 17 consecutive losses to ranked teams on the road.
The Wolverines (7-1, 5-0) had lost eight of 10 against coach Mark Dantonio's Spartans and those setbacks have led to them not winning a Big Ten title since 2004.
The matchup is always highly charged, but it was kicked up a notch well before kickoff, and emotions didn't subside even after a 75-minute weather delay during the first quarter.
Michigan State's team walked from one end zone to the other with their arms locked and a few Wolverines were stretching out in the middle of the field when contact was made and words were exchanged.
"Total bush league," Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. "Apparently coach Dantonio was 5 yards behind, smiling."
Dantonio disagreed with Harbaugh's assessment.
Michigan linebacker Devin Bush, one of the players involved in what Harbaugh called "shenanigans," later dragged and kicked his cleats to rip up some of the grass under the Spartans' white logo at midfield.
"I just got caught up in the moment with my emotions," Bush said.
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.
"Our defense was lights out," Harbaugh said. "That's a dream game."
Michigan's Karan Higdon had 144 yards rushing on a career-high 33 carries against a team that entered the game giving up a nation-low 62 yards on the ground.