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Spartan Football Playback: Minnesota vs. Michigan State (2011)

Eleven years ago, the Spartans came off a demoralizing defeat and held off a pesky Gophers team to stay atop the Legends Division.

Minnesota v Michigan State Photo by Mark A. Cunningham/Getty Images

Opponent: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Date: Nov. 5, 2011

Location: Spartan Stadium (East Lansing, Michigan)

Final Score: 31-24, Michigan State

All-time Matchup Record: Michigan State leads 30-17

An early season loss is never enjoyable, especially with how the way things played out in Seattle Saturday night, as Michigan State lost to Washington by a final score of 39-28. To find a silver lining, there are plenty of things to evaluate and learn from as the Spartans are heading into the toughest stretch of their season.

Weaknesses on the defensive side are evident. With injuries to key veterans, it’s been difficult for the unit to take the much needed leap from last season. Defensive backs were not only beaten over the top, but also every which way in between. Michael Penix Jr. could do no wrong, spreading the ball around the field like butter on toast.

Michigan State also found difficulties establishing the run, which put Payton Thorne in difficult situations early. Bright spots for the Spartans came from Thorne and the pass-catchers, who had to step up with Jayden Reed injured. Keon Coleman (116 years, two touchdowns) and Daniel Barker (seven receptions, 69 yards) showed they will be integral parts of the offense moving forward.

Saturday’s home game versus Minnesota was widely overlooked on the schedule, but now turns into a pivotal game for both teams. The Golden Gophers haven't played high competition in the non-conference, but have won decisively in each for a 3-0 start. Minnesota enters Spartan Stadium hungry to prove it is a contender in the Big Ten West. The Spartans will look to show that last week’s loss was more of an outlier than the norm.

This week's playback takes us back to the first great season of the Mark Dantonio era, where the Spartans edged out a pesky Minnesota team in East Lansing.

2011 Game Recap

Michigan State entered the contest coming off a rough defeat at Nebraska, but still had much to play for with a tie at the top of the Legends Division. Minnesota’s season, on the other hand, was virtually over and the Golden Gophers were looking to play spoiler, much like the tean did the week prior in an upset versus Iowa.

The Minnesota offense started out sizzling, scoring two early touchdowns in its first three drives and forced MSU to play with a higher sense of urgency.

Down 17-14 in the final minute of the half, the Spartans finally found a rhythm, driving 74 yards and taking the lead on a two-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Todd Anderson with five seconds left in the second quarter.

The advantage was short-lived. Minnesota went 80 yards in 11 plays at the start of the third and took a 24-21 lead when MarQueis Gray found Da’Jon McKnight in the back of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown.

Following an acrobatic interception by Trenton Robinson late in the third quarter, the Spartans tied the game at 24 with a 40-yard field goal by Dan Conroy to open the final quarter.

A short while later, Le’Veon Bell found the end zone on a 35-yard run to put the Spartans ahead. Minnesota had the ball in Michigan State territory twice after that, but the Gophers turned it over on downs at the 48-yard-line with 4:12 remaining.

After stopping the Spartans, Minnesota drove to the Michigan State 45-yard-line with 15 seconds left, but Robinson intercepted Gray again to ice the 31-24 victory for MSU.