2011 Michigan State Spartans Football
Michigan State vs Minnesota Football Recap
Michigan State 31, Minnesota 24
It certainly wasn’t pretty on the field, but it looks quite beautiful on the ledger sheet and in the standings of the Big Ten’s Legends Division. A team with a reputation for slipping on the banana peel managed to maintain its footing this past weekend, and when one of its division rivals unexpectedly tumbled later in the day, an ugly win never felt quite so good.
The Michigan State Spartans held off the suddenly surging Minnesota Golden Gophers on Saturday at Spartan Stadium. A week after a shocking win at home over Iowa, the Gophers traveled to East Lansing and put up a fight against the 15th-ranked Spartans, but Michigan State prevailed after a 35-yard touchdown run by Le’Veon Bell broke a 24-24 tie with 10:58 left in the fourth quarter. Kirk Cousins completed 23 of 34 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns for Michigan State. Bell ran for 96 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Michigan State was simply sleepy in yet another early (noon Eastern time) kickoff. Cousins, in typically exasperating fashion, forced more throws – including one pass lobbed into double coverage in the corner of the end zone – but he was able to steady himself just enough to lead his team to the finish line first. Sparty’s defense was also listless for portions of this tussle, but it similarly gained strength when this game reached its most decisive moments.
Minnesota’s Da’Jon McKnight caught nine passes for 173 yards and scored all three Gopher touchdowns, including the 15-yard reception that gave the Gophers a 24-21 lead with 9:40 left in the third quarter. The Spartans’ defense, the eighth-ranked scoring defense in the nation, didn’t allow another point. It’s that flinty, feisty edge – also found in MSU’s fightback from a 14-point deficit against Wisconsin – which has enabled Coach Mark Dantonio’s team to rise to the top of its division in pursuit of a second straight Big Ten championship.
Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for 71 yards on 21 carries, but was intercepted twice by Michigan State’s Trenton Robinson. Minnesota drove into Michigan State territory twice after Bell’s go-ahead touchdown, but was turned away on both opportunities.
Michigan State defensive end William Gholston was dominant for the second straight week, racking up 14 tackles. Last week against Nebraska, Gholston had 15 stops.
Spartans punter Mike Sadler pinned the Gophers inside their ten-yard line twice in the final seven minutes. He has been named Big Ten special team’s player of the week for his performance. Four of his five punts were downed inside the 20. As was the case in the LSU-Alabama game, punting – as inglorious as it may seem – made a difference for a Sparty side that, with Nebraska’s loss to Northwestern on Saturday, shot to the top of the Legends Division and once again controls its fortunes in league competition.
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