Another dominating performance by the Gopher defense and a surprising career game for walk-on, Jordan Nubin was the formula for the Gophers' win over Michigan State. Nubin, the team’s 5th-string running back, rushed for 202 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Gophers to a 27-12 win over the Spartans.
A week after an emotional win over rival Iowa, the Gophers came out flat and in a generous mood toward Sparty. Typically giving away 3 turnovers in a game does not lead to a positive outcome, but the Gopher defense and Nubin were too much for Sparty.
On the game’s opening possession, Sean Tyler took the ball on 2nd down and fumbled. Sparty took the ball on the Gopher 26-yard line but was unable to move the ball and took an early 3-0 lead.
The next Gopher possession also resulted in a fumble. This time it was Athan Kaliakmanis who fumbled on a sack, giving the ball back to MSU on the Gopher 33. Once again the Gopher defense did not allow a first down and the Spartans kicked another FG to go up 6-0.
The rest of the first half was basically a punt-fest. Michigan State was unable to move the ball and punted on all four of their possession before running out the clock before halftime. Minnesota was able to gain yards, but unable to find points besides a lone field goal until late in the 2nd quarter. Athan Kaliakmanis executed the 2-minute offense, moving the offense 94 yards in 8 plays and capped it with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Jackson.
At the half, it was a 10-6 Gopher lead while outgaining Michigan State 245 yards to 80. And of those 80 Spartan yards, 34 of them came on one play.
The second half was the Jordan Nubin show. Nubin is the brother to future NFL safety Tyler. He is basically the team’s 5th string running back and is a former walk-on. But with injuries to Darius Tayler, Zach Evans and Bryce Williams, plus the fumble problems for Sean Tyler, Nubin was forced into action.
The junior back ended up with 40 carries, over 200 yards and both second-half touchdowns. The Gopher ground game averaged 2.3 yards per carry in the first half, Nubin averaged 5.6 per carry in the second. The offensive line deserves their share of credit today, but Nubin’s vision was impressive. The running game was working well and Minnesota needed to throw the ball only 4 times in the entire second half.
Nubin scored his first career touchdown early in the 4th quarter. He ran for 18 yards, putting the Gophers up 17-6. This two-score lead felt insurmountable with the way the Minnesota defense had been playing.
But then Michigan State made a change at quarterback to freshman Sam Leavitt. On Leavitt’s initial drive, he ran for 34 yards, was 4/4 passing and hit Tyrell Henry for Michigan State’s only touchdown of the game. But with 8:37 remaining, the game was back to a one-score game and Michigan State was one-play away from retaking the lead.
But after an unsuccessful onside attempt, Minnesota got the ball on the 46. It was all on the ground, highlighted by a Nubin 18-yard run on 3rd and 6 to take the ball down to the 2. A plunge into the endzone followed and it was back a two-score lead.
Michigan State turned it over on their next two possessions. One led to a Dragan Kesich field goal and the other led to victory formation. Minnesota moved to 5-3, 3-2 in the Big Ten and will host Illinois next Saturday at Huntington Bank Stadium.