ANN ARBOR, Mich. —Michigan State made Denard Robinson look close to normal for the first time this year, helping the program that has often been overlooked in the mitten-shaped state dominate rival Michigan in a way it hasn't in generations.
The 17th-ranked Spartans intercepted three of Robinson's passes — one in the end zone, one just outside of it — and scored 24 unanswered points to break open a close game in a 34-17 rout of the 18th-ranked Wolverines on Saturday.
For the first time since 1965-67, Michigan State has won three straight in the series.
"It's pretty big," star linebacker Greg Jones said. "Especially after my freshman year, losing that lead and the comments that were made. That's the worst feeling you could have. Nobody wants to hear that.
"We just stay classy and get the job done."
College football's winningest program has not beaten Michigan State in football or men's basketball since 2007, when former Wolverines running back Mike Hart referred to the Spartans as Michigan's little brother.
As the Spartans ran out the clock on the final drive, green- and white-clad fans seemed to outnumber those in maize and blue. They jeered the Wolverines by chanting "lit-tle sis-ter!" along with "Go green! Go white!" in the emptying Big House that once had 113,065 fans packed in it on a warm, sun-splashed afternoon.
"That was the best feeling ever," shouted Trenton Robinson, who had the first interception. "To shut up all these people was great!"
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio was getting a ride from one side of the Big House to the other during the final minute of the game to greet his players as they entered the locker room.
"I feel great and very, very proud of our football team," Dantonio told The Associated Press in a phone interview about 90 minutes after the game, as he traveled back to East Lansing. "It was a program win."
Dantonio was on the field during warmups and in the visiting coaches' box during the game, watching his team play in person for the first time since a heart attack three weeks ago.
"To see him walking around before the game and looking in his eye really showed how much he wanted this game," Jones said.
Rodriguez desperately wanted to beat Michigan State for the first time in his three seasons in Ann Arbor — a win away from being bowl eligible after going 8-16 in his first two years — and didn't come close.
Michigan State, which was a five-point underdog, earned its most-lopsided victory in the series since beating the Wolverines 34-0 in 1967.
"I don't look at margin of defeat," Rodriguez bristled. "I'm just disappointed we didn't play better. We didn't play well, and they played well. Give them credit.
"We made too many mistakes against a good team."
Robinson made his first of many on the opening drive, throwing an errant throw that was intercepted in the end zone. He also sailed a pass over a wide-open receiver in the end zone on the next possession and threw behind a teammate near the goal line in the third quarter when an accurate pass might've pulled Michigan within a touchdown.
"It's a team game; it's not an 'I' game," Robinson said. "I can't put everything on my shoulders."
Michigan got on Robinson's back for the first five games, going undefeated as he ran for 905 yards and eight scores and threw for 1,008 yards and seven scores with only one interception.
The Spartans seemed to rattle Robinson, who hadn't been tested by a good defense this year.
He was 17 of 29 for 215 yards and accounted for two touchdowns, but made the three costly turnovers and ran for a season-low 86 yards — with a long of 16 — on 21 carries.
"We contained him," defensive tackle Kevin Pickelman said. "We knew he couldn't throw the ball."
Michigan State's Kirk Cousins avoided turning over the ball, threw for 284 yards and a TD and handed off to Edwin Baker, Le'Veon Bell and Larry Caper for three scores.
Baker ran for 147 yards, Bell had 78 yards rushing and Caper chipped in enough to help the Spartans roll up 249 on the ground, striking a balance that gave Michigan's lackluster defense plenty of problems.
"Maybe someday the little brother believes he can compete with the big brother," said Dantonio, who was stung in his first season at Michigan State by Hart's verbal jab. "I have great respect for Michigan, outstanding respect for Coach Rodriguez and the job that they do. We felt like when we came here as a staff we were going to be a player in the state here."