(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.”
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.