Gophers Lose 31-8 at Michigan State
November 6, 2010

Sophomore Edwin Baker rushed for 179 yards and 4 touchdowns as 16th-ranked Michigan State beat Minnesota 31-8 in East Lansing. The Spartans were coming off their first loss of the season, 37-6 the previous week at Iowa. “They’re 9-1 for a reason,” said Minnesota interim head coach Jeff Horton after the game of Michigan State, “an outstanding team.”

Minnesota was without defensive captain and lineman Brandon Kirksey, who was suspended after a locker room outburst following the Gophers’ 52-10 loss to Ohio State the week before, and defensive players Michael Carter and Ra’Shede Hageman, who were suspended for the rest of the season to concentrate on their school work. The Gophers traveled with only 58 players, “undermanned” according to Horton.

Minnesota had beaten Michigan State in Minneapolis 42-34 in 2009 despite a school-record 17 penalties. The Gophers had some costly penalties in this game, including an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Da’Jon McKnight on a third-quarter drive, but their problem was more a sluggish offense in the first half. The opening drive of the game for Minnesota included a couple of highlights, a 43-yard kickoff return by Troy Stoudermire and a 27-yard pass from Adam Weber to Eric Lair. However, the drive ended with Eric Ellestad missed a field-goal attempt from 32 yards. “Unfortunately, we’ve had that performance before,” said Horton of coming away without points. “It’s disappointing, but our kids hung in there.”

The Spartans came back with an 80-yard drive that featured a 25-yard run by Baker, who later capped it with a 30-yard touchdown, making cuts to his left to get through the line and then to his right to find open field into the end zone for a 7-0 Michigan State lead.

Baker scored twice more, both on fourth down, the latter run as the half ran out, giving the Spartans a 21-0 lead. Baker had 118 net yards in the first half, 20 yards more than the Gophers produced from scrimmage on the ground and in the air.

The Gophers held the Spartans to a field goal in the third quarter and later mounted a drive with MarQueis Gray at quarterback, one that included a 9-yard run for a first down by Eric Lair, who took the snap on a fake punt. Gray kept the Gophers going even after McKnight’s penalty at the end of a 14-yard pass play to Lair, but Minnesota finally stalled and punted the ball away early in the fourth quarter. Horton said they planned to insert Gray on the third or fourth series of the half. “It did some good things there. It was a good change of pace,” according to Horton, who said he may give redshirt freshman Moses Alipate more time in practice during the game and perhaps in the team’s next game, at Illinois. Of the fake punt, Horton credited special-teams coach John Butler with the call. “It gave us a little juice. We need some mojo.”

Although Michigan State stopped the Gophers on that drive, the Spartans gave the ball back on their third play as Cousins had his pass tipped at the line by Anthony Jacobs and intercepted at the Michigan State 20 by Mike Rallis. Weber returned as quarterback and, after dropping the snap and recovering for a 2-yard loss, lofted a pass to the end zone. Gray leaped over cornerback Chris Rucker to take the pass and came down with one foot in bounds for a touchdown. With a two-point conversion, the Gophers closed to within 24-8.

The Spartans responded with a 12-play, 77-yard drive that chewed up nearly five-and-a-half minutes. Baker was the main weapon on this one, running for a 21-yard gain that was initially ruled a touchdown; a review, one of many in the game, showed that he was out of bounds at the 1, but it didn’t matter as Baker carried the ball in on the next play for his fourth touchdown of the game.

“When you’re us, you have to find something you can build on,” said Horton and commented that the Gophers second-half performance allowed them to do that.

Asked about his quarterback against Illinois, Horton said, “Moses,” and, after a pause, added, “Might.”

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