Gophers Fall To 1-9 As Freshman Paces Michigan State To 31-8 Victory

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Spartans Get Back On Track, Thump Gophers 31-8

(Sports Network) – Edwin Baker rushed for 179 yards and a career-high four touchdowns to help launch 16th-ranked Michigan State over Minnesota, 31-8, at Spartan Stadium.

Kirk Cousins helped the Spartans’ offense with 131 yards passing. He bounced back from his three-interception outing during last week’s 37-6 loss to Iowa, which dropped Michigan State (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten) 11 spots in the rankings from No. 5.

Big Ten bottom feeder Minnesota (1-9, 0-6) struggled offensively and could only muster 267 yards. The Gophers’ lone score came in the fourth quarter when MarQueis Gray made an acrobatic nine-yard catch on a pass from Adam Weber.

Weber ended with 167 yards on 15-of-22 passing, while DeLeon Eskridge had just 31 yards on 17 carries.

Minnesota’s opening drive ended in a missed field goal and the Gophers never threatened to score again during the first half. The Spartans answered with an 80-yard drive that ended when Baker galloped 30 yards untouched for the game’s opening score.

Baker rushed for his second touchdown of the game on a 4th-and-goal from the one-yard line for a 14-0 lead with 6:03 left in the first half. Baker again scored from the one on fourth down as time expired in the half, giving the Spartans a 21-0 cushion.

“(Coach Mark Dantonio) just told me to get the ball in the end zone, and I took great pride in that,” Baker said about the touchdown before the half. “I just trusted my line and fullback and lowered my pads to get across the end zone. It was a really big touchdown, and a huge momentum boost for us going into the half.”

The Spartans started the second half with a drive that ended in a 24-yard field goal by Dan Conroy.

Minnesota finally threatened on its first possession of the third quarter, but Weber was picked off by Marcus Hyde at the goal line. The Gophers finally scored with just under 11 minutes left on Gray’s catch, but the Spartans answered with a 77-yard drive and put the game away when Baker capped off his career day with a 22-yard touchdown scamper with 5:41 left.

“Obviously disappointed with the loss, we wanted to win that football game,” said Minnesota head coach Jeff Horton. “I thought our kids played very hard. Michigan State’s a great football team; is 9-1 for a reason and will probably play New Year’s Day, or the second, somewhere in there, in one of the bowls.”

Game Notes

Minnesota has dropped its last nine games since it opened the season with a win over Middle Tennessee State…Michigan State receiver Mark Dell left the game in the second quarter after he was dragged out of bounds and hurt his right knee…Michigan State linebackers Greg Jones and Eric Gordon each had nine tackles.

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Michigan State Spartans 31, Minnesota Golden Gophers 8 - Spartans Ice The Game

The Edwin Baker show continues in East Lansing as the Spartans have officially put away the Golden Gophers.

Baker went in for his fourth rushing touchdown of the day, this one from one yard out, as the Spartans now have a 31-8 lead over the Golden Gophers. The Gophers have also been stopped on a fourth and one in Michigan State territory, and now it’s just a matter of the Spartans running out the clock and sending the Gophers to 1-9.

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Michigan State Spartans 24, Minnesota Golden Gophers 8 - Gophers Avoid The Shutout

The Gophers have scored, which can only mean one thing. . .it’s garbage time, ladies and gentlemen!

After forcing a Kirk Cousins interception deep in Michigan State territory, the Gophers pushed into the end zone, needing a fourth and short conversion by Adam Weber to keep the drive alive. On first and goal at the 9, Weber threw a fade to MarQueis Gray, who barely got one foot down on the catch, for a Minnesota touchdown.

Weber then found DeLeon Eskridge for the two-point conversion, and the Gophers now trail 24-8 with just under ten minutes left in the ball game.

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Michigan State Spartans 24, Minnesota Golden Gophers 0 - Spartans Get Field Goal To Start Second Half

After a big kickoff return to start the second half, the Spartans have increased their lead over the Gophers thanks to a 24-yard field goal by Dan Conroy.

The Gophers then followed that up with Adam Weber getting intercepted by the Spartans near midfield.

With about seven minutes left in the third quarter, the Gophers now trail the Spartans by a score of 24-0.

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Michigan State Spartans 21, Minnesota Golden Gophers 0 - Another Bad Punt Leads To More Spartan Points

Dan Orseske had his most recent punt partially blocked by the Spartans, and Michigan State once again converted it into points.

This drive for the Spartans began at the Minnesota 40-yard line after the partial block, and Edwin Baker was once again the featured man for Michigan State. He carried the ball three times for 17 yards to start the drive, and just when it looked like the Gophers might have a shot to stop the Spartans after a delay of game penalty, Kirk Cousins found Mark Dell for 20 yards on third and 12 to convert.

Michigan State then took the clock all the way down, and faced a fourth and goal from inside the 1 with three seconds left on the clock. Once again, Edwin Baker got the call and, for the third time today, he found himself in the end zone, giving the Spartans a 21-0 lead over the Gophers as we go into the locker room at halftime.

Oh, and the Spartans will get the ball to start the second half. Not that the Gophers are coming back in this one or anything, but still.

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Michigan State Spartans 14, Minnesota Golden Gophers 0 - Spartans Go Back To The Run Game

After another bad punt by freshman Dan Orseske, the Spartans didn’t have far to go for a touchdown, and they got there exclusively via the ground game.

After an incomplete pass on the first play of the drive, the Spartans handed the ball off on their next six plays. . .and with the way running back Edwin Baker is going, that’s probably a pretty good idea. Baker’s first two carries on the drive covered 12 and 20 yards and put the Spartans into the red zone. They stalled a bit and faced a fourth and goal situation, but Baker powered his way over the right side and into the end zone, and Sparty has gotten out to a 14-0 lead over the Gophers.

Baker already has 102 yards on only nine carries, and we still have six minutes left until halftime.

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Michigan State Spartans 7, Minnesota Golden Gophers 0 - Gophers Fail To Get One Foot In Two Tries

The Gophers find new ways to fail every week and, really, it’s getting to be quite sad.

After once again driving into Michigan State territory thanks to a couple of nice plays with MarQueis Gray in the “Wild Gopher” formation, the Gophers found themselves with third down and about a foot from the MSU 41-yard line as we switched from the first quarter to the second.

On third down, the Gophers handed the ball to DeLeon Eskridge. . .who failed to convert.

On fourth down, the Gophers handed the ball to Jon Hoese. . .who, also, failed to convert.

Michigan State ball at their own 41, and with about 13 minutes left before halftime, the Spartans lead 7-0.

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Michigan State Spartans 7, Minnesota Golden Gophers 0 - Sparty Makes It Look Easy

The Spartans took over at their own 20 after the missed field goal by Minnesota, and they marched down the field with (not) surprisingly little difficulty.

Michigan State only needed six plays to get into the end zone, because three of those six plays gained at least 24 yards. The second play of the drive was a 25-yard run by running back Edwin Baker, and that was followed shortly thereafter by a 24-yard pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins to wide receiver B.J. Cunningham. A couple of plays later. . .including a golden opportunity for an interception for Kyle Theret that he just simply dropped. . .Baker took a handoff and went around the right side for a 30-yard touchdown run.

With 8:38 left in the first quarter, the Gophers are in a familiar position. . .trailing. . .as the Spartans lead 7-0.

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Minnesota Golden Gophers 0, Michigan State Spartans 0 - Opportunity Squandered

Typical of the Gophers’ season, their opening drive started out with some promise, but would up giving the Gophers nothing to show for it.

After Troy Stoudermire returned the opening kickoff to near midfield, the Gophers drove all the way down to the Spartans’ 16-yard line. However, after that, the drive stalled out, and Eric Ellestad. . .who, at some point, probably needs to be benched. . .missed a 32-yard field goal attempt.

With 11:15 left in the first quarter, our game is still scoreless.

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Three SBNation Game Threads For Your Pleasure

As always, the SBNation family of websites has three open threads for you to talk about today’s match-up between the Spartans and the Gophers.

Your home for Gophers football is over at The Daily Gopher.

If you want the Michigan State perspective on things, be sure to check out The Only Colors.

And, as always, for your Big Ten-wide look at things, hang out with the folks over at Off Tackle Empire.

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Gophers Travel To East Lansing To Take On Michigan State

GAME NOTES: Two teams at opposite ends of the Big Ten spectrum gather in East Lansing this weekend, as the 16th-ranked Michigan State Spartans tussle with the reeling Minnesota Golden Gophers at Spartan Stadium.

The Spartans were one of just a handful of unbeaten teams heading into last weekend and when all was said and done, they were knocked from their pedestal with a humbling 37-6 loss at No.18 Iowa.

"Obviously a disappointing performance by us today," stated head coach Mark Dantonio. "We are still an 8-1 football team and that is something that we need to recognize. We have to make plays."

The loss dashed MSU's national title hopes and also put a dent in its chances of winning the Big Ten. The Spartans are currently one of four teams in the Big Ten with just one loss, but they do have a rather favorable remaining schedule, so the program is still very much alive for a league championship.

Minnesota meanwhile, is one of only two teams without a Big Ten win and that is the least of the team's problems. Since opening the season with a 24-17 win over Middle Tennessee, the Gophers have gone on to drop eight straight decisions, including a 52-10 beating at the hands of No.10 Ohio State this past weekend.

"Obviously Ohio State was the dominating football team tonight. They beat us in all three phases of the football game," stated interim head coach Jeff Horton, who took after Tim Brewster was fired a few weeks ago.

As for the all-time series, MSU holds a 25-17 edge over Minnesota, but the Gophers have won six of the past eight meetings, including a 42-34 decision last season.

The Gophers turned in their worst offensive performance of the season, as they managed only 10 points and a mere 232 total yards in a lopsided loss to OSU last weekend. QB Adam Weber was harassed all game long and sacked five times. He lost two fumbles and threw a pick, while completing only 9-of-20 attempts for 162 yards. It was clearly a dismal effort by Weber, who has been one of the few bright spots for Minnesota with 17 TD passes on the year.

Da'Jon McKnight (578 yards, nine TDs) and MarQueis Gray (36 catches, 513 yards) are Weber's favorite targets, while DeLeon Eskridge (523 yards) heads the ground game. Eskridge had 79 yards and a TD in last weekend's loss, but McKnight and Gray combined for only four catches.

Minnesota's defense was shredded last weekend, as OSU ran for 263 yards and three TDs and threw for 244 more and another two scores. Furthermore, OSU completed a near perfect 20-of-24 pass attempts, while averaging 7.6 yards per play.

"We just had trouble slowing them down. We broke down defensively," stated coach Horton.

Defense has been an issue all season long for the Gophers, who are giving up 417.6 total ypg, including a whopping 201.8 ypg on the ground. Minnesota has surrendered 22 rushing TDs, while allowing foes to convert over 48 percent of the time on third downs. Gary Tinsley is the team's leading tackler with 69 to his credit and he had five stops in the loss to OSU.

The Spartans, averaging over 30 ppg, were held to just six points and a measly 258 total yards in last weekend's lopsided loss to Iowa. The biggest disappointment had to be the team's supposed electric ground game, which was held to a mere 31 yards on 20 carries.

"To me, we need to run the ball effectively and we can't turn the ball over three times and not get anything done on defense," said Dantonio.

Behind the duo of Edwin Baker (800 yards, seven TDs) and Le'Veon Bell (586 yards, eight TDs), MSU is churning out 175.4 ypg on the ground, but the duo combined for only 33 yards last weekend.

QB Kirk Cousin also had his issues against the Iowa defense, as he was picked three times after throwing just four INTs in the first eight games. He did complete 21-of-29 pass attempts for 198 yards with a TD, and Cousins has been efficient this season, converting 67.2 percent of his tosses.

Mark Dell, who had eight receptions for 98 yards last weekend, is the go-to target for MSU with 39 catches for 618 yards on the year.

MSU's defense has thrived on making big plays this season, as they have recorded 20 takeaways, including 13 INTs, and 18 sacks. The unit however, didn't do anything special versus Iowa, finishing without a single sack or turnover.

"You can't win if you can't sack the quarterback. You can't win if you can't stop the run," said Dantonio.

The Spartans gave up 162 yards on the ground to Iowa, which also passed for 190 yards and three TDs on 11-of-16 attempts. It was a disappointment from a defense that has limited foes to just 123.8 rushing ypg for the season. Greg Jones highlights the unit with 78 stops, to go with a pair of INTs, and he made nine stops last weekend.

MSU is coming off a poor performance, but should have no trouble bouncing back with a strong effort from its ground attack. Not to mention Minnesota has all but given up on its season.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan State 35, Minnesota 13

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