Minnesota’s Halloween Escape
October 31, 2009

On a night when the University of Minnesota football team committed a school record 17 penalties, it was a five-yard infraction by Michigan State that resulted in the Gophers sealing a victory over the pesky Spartans.

Just when it looked like the Gophers were going to have to turn the ball over to the explosive Michigan State offense in the final minutes of a wild 42-34 game, on fourth down-and-two punter Blake Haudan was roughed by onrushing Spartan safety Kendall Davis-Clark, and Minnesota retained possession. Since Michigan State had burned all of its timeouts, the Gophers were able to hold onto possession until the final gun went off.

On a chilly Halloween night in Minneapolis, the Gophers and Spartans both were guilt of numerous chilling moments with Minnesota penalties and mistakes threatening to turn the team into pumpkins. Following the start of the game, the Gophers appeared to be well on their way to a win over favored Michigan State by putting up a pair of touchdowns before the Spartans could execute a play from the line of scrimmage. On the opening series, Minnesota scored when quarterback Adam Weber passed to running back Duane Bennett for a 62-yard touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff, Eric Ellstad boomed a 61-yarder to the nine-yard line where Spartan Edwin Baker returned the ball for a 19-yard gain before he was hit by onrushing tackler DeLeon Eskridge and fumbled. The Gophers recovered at the MSU 28-yard line. On third down, Weber threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to receiver Brandon Green.

Minnesota had a 14-0 lead with 13 minutes and 30 seconds left in the first quarter, but things got scary after that for the Gophers. A goal-line stand by Minnesota forced Michigan State coach Mike Dantonio to call in kicker Brett Swenson who put the first Spartan points on the board with a 20-yard field goal. Then, in the second quarter, MSU quarterback Kirk Cousins hooked up with tight end Brian Linthicum on a 26-yard touchdown play. The extra point made it Minnesota 14, Michigan State 10.

The Gophers took a 21-10 lead into halftime after a seven-yard touchdown pass from Weber to Nick Tow-Arnett. Halftime statistics revealed that Weber had completed 11 of 17 passes for 187 yards. Prior to the game doomsayers around the Twin Cities had lamented the season-ending injury to potential All-America candidate Eric Decker, touted by Gopher coach Tim Brewster as the “best wide receiver in all of college football.” Weber proved to all that he is capable of finding other eligible receivers. At game’s end, he had registered completions not only to Bennett, Green, and Tow-Arnett but Da’Jon McKnight, Jon Hoese, and Collin McGarry as well. His final game stats showed 19 completions for 416 yards.

“Weber was extremely accurate,” Brewster said after the game. “Our offensive line protected him really well. He played ‘lights out’ football all night.”

Despite, Weber’s heroics, the Gophers squandered their lead in the second half, allowing a 93-yard kickoff return by the Spartans Keshawn Martin to cut the lead to 21-17. After Bennett scored on a one-yard touchdown run, Martin responded with an 84-yard touchdown run from scrimmage to make the score 28-24. Then Cousins hit tight end Dion Sims for an 11-yard touchdown pass to put Michigan State up by 31-28.

Weber reversed the Spartan surge with a two-yard touchdown strike to Tow-Arnett in the fourth quarter to put the Gophers back in the lead at 35-31. Next, MSU responded with a 20-yard field goal after another Minnesota goal-line stand, and the Gopher lead was cut to 35-34. Weber then threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to Bennett for the final points of the game. Michigan State was about to regain possession for a final drive when Davis-Clark was called for roughing punter Haudan.

“Our guys are amazingly resilient,” Brewster commented. “They kept on fighting for 60 minutes of football. They did what it takes to win a football game.” The game ball was given by the coach to Decker, who watched the game from the sidelines. “We dedicate this victory to him, our best player.”

Brewster also noted that “penalties are a part of the game.” For the record, here are the Gophers’ record-setting 17 penalties:

  1. First quarter. D.J. Burris, holding.
  2. First quarter. Jeff Wills, false start.
  3. First quarter. Wills, holding.
  4. First quarter. Weber, delay of game.
  5. Second quarter. Wills, personal foul.
  6. Second quarter. Johnny Johnson, false start.
  7. Second quarter. Lee Campbell, pass interference.
  8. Second quarter. Simoni Lawrence, personal foul.
  9. Third quarter. Troy Stoudermire, unsportsmanlike conduct.
  10. Third quarter. Ben Kuznia, holding.
  11. Third quarter. Wills, false start.
  12. Third quarter. Wills, false start.
  13. Third quarter. McGarry, illegal shift.
  14. Third quarter. Gary Tinsley, offside.
  15. Fourth quarter. Tim Dandridge, personal foul.
  16. Fourth quarter. Lawrence, roughing the passer.
  17. Fourth quarter. Dom Alford, holding.

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