Michigan State, following their huge upset over rival Michigan last week, traveled to Minnesota attempting to back up that win with another. And they did just that as they dominated the line of scrimmage and ran away with a 30-20 win over Minnesota. The win moved the Spartans to 5-1 on the season, 3-0 in the Big Ten.
Before the game kicked off, as both teams were making their final preparations, lightning struck. That was a literal lightning strike (not a metaphor) within 15 miles of the stadium and we were in a delay. A storm front moved through, causing a 43 minute delay.
When the game kicked off, it was a sloppy 1st quarter. Michigan State, on their opening possession fumbled the snap as they were punting. Minnesota recovered on the 3 yard line setting up 1st and goal. Inexplicably they attempted 3 passes, all were incomplete and they settled for an early 3-0 lead.
After a Michigan State drive for a tying field goal, the Gophers fumbled on their second play and the Spartans quickly turned that turnover into a touchdown and a 10-3 lead.
Duke McGhee, late in the first quarter stepped in front of a Brian Lewerke pass for an interception and the third turnover of the opening quarter. With that interception and the ball on the MSU 34, the Gophers were unable to convert the good field position into a touchdown. Instead it was another Emmit Carpenter field goal to close the game to 10-6.
The next two quarters saw the Spartans dominate the line of scrimmage, on both sides of the ball. Offensively they seemingly ran at will, to the tune of 138 yards rushing in the 2nd and 3rd quarters combined. In the third quarter alone they dominated possession running 23 plays while the Gophers managed to have just 4 offensive snaps. Over those quarters they scored 13 more more points extending their lead to 23-6.
At this point Demry Croft, Tyler Johnson and the rest of the Gopher offense woke up. Through 3 quarters the Gophers scored just 6 points (all set up by the defense) and accumulated just 124 yards. In the 4th they moved the ball for 166 yards and 21 points.
The first touchdown was a 28 yard catch and run from Johnson cutting the score to 23-13. Unfortunately a long Michigan State kickoff gave them the ball in Gopher territory. Rushes of 18 yards, 10 yards, 11 yards and then the final 6 yards gave the Spartans a touchdown in 4 plays pushing the lead back to 30-13.
Croft and Johnson weren’t done. A long, 9-play drive went 61 yards capped by Croft to Johnson for 17 yards and their second TD connection. With the score 30-20 and 5:20 remaining the Gophers attempted an onside kick. Unable to recover, but they did manage to hold the Spartans to a 45-yard field goal that was missed.
The Gopher offense moved 73 yards this time, scoring yet again. Croft to Johnson for 6 yards cut the game to 3 points. But time was too short at this point. Just 1:06 remaining. The late comeback required an onside kick recovery to continue but it was recovered by the Spartans who assumed the victory formation and the final was a loss, 30-27.
There is plenty to be concerned about following this game. The Gopher defense was really sliced up by the Spartan running game. 245 yards is far too many. L.J. Scott averaging 7.8 yards per carry, is too much. Conversely the Gopher ground game with just 74 yards and a 2.4 yard average is not going to get it done.
The positives came in the passing game. Demry Croft took a couple series to get his feet under him, but when it was time to start throwing the ball around he really started to look comfortable and capable. A couple poor decisions in there, one resulting in a pick, but overall he looked confident in the final quarter and gave this offense the first spark we have seen in a couple weeks.
“What I saw out there in the last 10 minutes was the team I couldn’t wait to see!”
Up next the Gophers host Illinois on Homecoming. The Illini have been REALLY struggling this year, but I’m not sure this Gopher team is in position to take anyone for granted.