Every team from time-to-time has days where simply nothing goes right. Saturday afternoon in Spartan Stadium was one of those days for Michigan State. MSU was thoroughly dominated by the visiting Minnesota Golden Gophers, with a final score of 34-7. The Spartans’ record now stands at 2-2 for the season.
Minnesota racked up a total of 508 yards, went 10-for-12 on third down, and Golden Gophers’ starting quarterback Tanner Morgan completed 23 of his 26 passes (88 percent). The Spartans turned the ball over three times and Minnesota did not punt the entire game.
The Gophers took the opening kickoff and methodically marched down the field with a mix of the run and the pass. Five of Minnesota’s 10 total plays on the drive went for at least 10 yards. Gopher running back Mohamed Ibrahim punched the ball in from the 2-yard line to give Minnesota an early 7-0 lead.
The Spartans then proceeded to go three-and-out after wide receiver Jayden Reed caught a third-down pass short of the sticks and was immediately swallowed by a gang of Gopher defenders. This would be a recurring theme.
On Minnesota’s next drive, the Spartans forced a third-and-12 at the MSU 38-yard-line. But, Morgan scrambled for a first down and then dropped a pass in the bucket on the following play to wide receiver Daniel Jackson to put the visitors up by 14 points.
On the Spartans’ second drive, quarterback Payton Thorne was sacked on third-and-8 to bring out the punting team once again after just three plays.
Minnesota drove the ball for a third time into Michigan State’s red zone with a 66-yard drive. Finally, the Spartans were able to hold the Gophers to just a field goal to keep the score down at 17-0.
On Michigan State’s third drive, the Green and White finally picked up a couple of first downs and even advanced the ball into Minnesota territory. But, MSU failed to convert a key third-down run, and on fourth down, Thorne threw an interception while trying to thread the needle to Keon Coleman.
Minnesota was threatening to score yet again on the Gophers’ next drive, but linebacker/defensive end Jacoby Windmon forced a fumble, which was recovered by cornerback Ronald Williams Jr. to give Michigan State the ball back with 4:41 left to go in the first half.
The Spartans managed a single first down, and for a moment, it looked as though Michigan State was going to get on the board as Reed got behind Minnesota’s defense. Thorne overthrew Reed, however, and two plays later, the Spartans were punting for the third time of the afternoon.
Michigan State looked like it might get a third-down stop to get the ball back one more time before halftime, but Morgan once again picked up a first down on a scramble to retain possession. The Gophers were able to run out the clock and took a 17-0 lead to the locker room.
At the half, the Spartans were trailing in total yards 310-to-45 and in first downs 19-to-three. Michigan State ran only 19 offensive plays in the first 30 minutes of football and possessed the ball for just 9:01. Morgan completed 17 of his 20 passes (85 percent) for Minnesota.
In other words, things could have gone better for the Spartans in the first half. But, the second half did not go much better.
To start the second half, Michigan State looked like a different team on offense. The Spartans ran 12 plays and drove 70 yards into Minnesota’s red zone. Then, on first-and-goal from the 6-yard line, Thorne fumbled near the goal line for his second turnover of the game.
At that point, all of the air seemed to come out of the Spartans’ balloon.
The Gophers proceeded to march down the field using close to a seven-minute drive, which ended with another touchdown pass from Morgan, this time to wide receiver Nick Kallerup. That moved the scoreboard lights to show 24-0 with 3:26 to go in the third quarter.
On the following drive, Thorne attempted a first-down screen pass to running back Jalen Berger and instead wound up throwing an interception to Minnesota defensive lineman Danny Striggow. Six plays later, the Gophers put another touchdown on the board when Morgan connected with Jackson again, to make the score 31-0.
On Michigan State’s next drive, the Spartans decided to start racking up penalties for an exciting change of pace. First was a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty against offensive lineman Jarrett Horst. Then, it was Nick Samac who committed an ineligible man downfield penalty, which negated a completion to Reed on fourth-and-12. The Spartans then punted. Again.
After that, Minnesota simply tried to run out the clock, but wound up kicking a field goal on its final drive on offense to make it to 34 points.
In the final seconds of the game, Michigan State backup quarterback Noah Kim entered the game and managed to finally get the Spartans on the board with a 27-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Germie Bernard.
The Spartans will try to find a way to regroup after a brutal loss to the Gophers. It does not get much easier, however, as Michigan State travels to pass-happy Maryland next weekend. The Terrapins pushed the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor this week before losing 27-34.
Next Saturday’s game will kickoff at 3:30 p.m. The game will be televised on FS1.