We're going bowling!
- If that was LeVeon Bell's last regular season game in Green and White, it was a bravura final performance. Srsly: 35 carries, 266 yards. Bell dominated the game, and especially the fourth quarter, and not only dragged the Gopher defense all over the field, but dragged his whole team to a postseason appearance. All credit to the offensive line for creating some holes for Bell to run through (though it was another mediocre effort at pass protection), but this was all about Bell. His 266 yards were the most by a Spartan back since Javon Ringer's 282 yard performance against Florida Atlantic in 2008. Bell may very well be on his way to the NFL -- and if he's projected as a mid-to-high round draft pick, he'd be crazy not to go -- but this was quite a way to go out.
- The defense came to play. 4 interceptions! Many disruptive plays! Sound tackling!* Not that the defense has been the big problem this season, but this was a very good effort against an admittedly terrible Minnesota offense. Johnny Adams achieved some small measure of redemption for a disappointing season by picking off two passes, including one in the first quarter that was one of MSU's few early-game turnovers this season. For some reason that I don't understand, Minnesota targeted Darqueze Dennard for most of the game, and Dennard was more than equal to the task. He's really had a terrific season. The defensive line dominated the game up front, as Minnesota managed only 19 yards rushing, and Gopher quarterbacks were running for their lives all game long. Nicely done.
(*And if you're William Gholston, sound tackling 5 yards out of bounds!)
- The quarterback position should be up for grabs next year. I'm reluctant to sully an important program win by dumping on Andrew Maxwell, but this was another truly bad game by the starter. His first interception was bad, and his second was terrible -- overthrowing a triple-covered backup fullback is a cause for concern. His reads were mostly poor, the telegraphed passes remain a big problem, and passes continue to sail on him. Connor Cook, Damion Terry, and others should be given the chance to win the job.
- Hey! We're going to a bowl! And for the sixth straight year, no less. Yes, this allows for an extra month of practice, which is important -- but the symbolism may be even more important here. Missing a bowl game would represent a massive step back for the program, particularly in a year where such high expectations were set for the team. This season is a disappointment no matter what happens in the bowl game, but the team now has the opportunity to clinch a winning season and limit any program regression. (And the bowl game won't be in East Lansing, so MSU might even win!) Yes, #narrative disclaimers apply, but college football is all about narrative, for rankings and recruiting. And a workmanlike effort in Minneapolis will give the team an opportunity to end the season on a high note.
With the victory today, MSU will almost certainly face an opponent from the Big 12 in the Buffalo Wild Wings bowl on December 29 in Tempe, Arizona. But for now -- MSU wins, Le'Veon Bell is amazing, and the world is slightly less soul-crushing. Huzzah!