ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Michigan has taken care of two skids in two seasons under Brady Hoke.
The Wolverines beat Michigan State 12-10 on Saturday, ending a four-game losing streak in the series, and ended the regular season last year with their first win over rival Ohio State in eight years.
Hoke acknowledged it was important to finally beat the Spartans, but wasn’t ready to celebrate.
“We have bigger expectations,” he said.
Michigan — ranked No. 20 in The Associated Press college poll Sunday — has one more drought it desperately wants to end.
The Wolverines (5-2, 3-0 Big Ten) haven’t won a Big Ten title since 2004. They can take a big step toward winning the Legends Division and playing for the conference championship Dec. 1 in Indianapolis with a win at Nebraska (6-2, 3-1) Saturday night.
That’s why kicker Brandon Gibbons, who made the game-winning field goal with 5 seconds left against the Spartans, was quickly moving his mind to the big picture following the team’s first win in the series since 2007.
“Our bigger goal is to win the Big Ten championship, not just beat Michigan State,” Gibbons said.
Michigan is the only Legends team without a loss in the division. The Cornhuskers and Iowa are tied for second place in the division with one setback each in conference play. Michigan has road games left against Nebraska, Michigan and the Buckeyes along with home games against Northwestern and Iowa.
As much as the Wolverines are focusing on winning their 43rd Big Ten title, junior receiver Drew Dileo acknowledged finally beating Michigan State and getting to keep the trophy that comes with the victory was satisfying.
“I haven’t seen Paul Bunyan since I’ve been here at Michigan,” Dileo said. “It’s good to get him in our trophy case where he belongs.”
The Spartans have had the 4-foot high wooden statue since 2008 and will have to wait more than a year — Nov. 2, 2013 — for an opportunity to get him back.
Michigan State (4-4, 1-3), meanwhile, has some work to do just to be eligible for a bowl this season after being ranked No. 10 last month.
The Spartans had a shot to win a school-record five in a row against Michigan with a fake punt deep their territory that set up a go-ahead field goal with 5:48 left on Saturday, but they couldn’t do enough with or without the ball to hold on for the victory.
“This needs to make us stronger,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “I truly believe that.”
Michigan State has lost two straight games and three out of its last four by a total of five points and four of the last six games.
“I know it doesn’t show on the scoreboard, but we’re making strides,” quarterback Andrew Maxwell said.
A turnaround will not be easy.
The Spartans play at Wisconsin and host Nebraska in the next two weeks and close the regular season at home against Northwestern and against Minnesota on the road.
“We’ve got to respond,” linebacker Max Bullough said. “I know it sounds like we say that every week, but it’s true.