On the surface, MSU got off to a good start in this game. After kicking off to get things going, the Spartan defense recovered a fumble on Minnesota’s second play. That turnover resulted in an MSU field goal, giving the Green & White a 3-0 lead. Then, on Minnesota’s second drive, after giving up one first down, linebacker Jordan Hall got a forced fumble on a sack which was recovered by Avery Dunn. And then MSU would convert that turnover into another field goal for a 6-0 lead.
So two possessions yielded two FGs. Usually we would take this as a positive for this team. But that isn’t looking at the whole picture. In reality, MSU started consecutive drives on the Minnesota 26 and 33 yard lines, earned a total of 14 offensive yards, picked up zero first downs, and settled for 2 kick attempts. And that would be the last scoring the Spartans would do until the fourth quarter after making yet another in-game quarterback change. For the entire first half, MSU picked up only 3 first downs (one at the buzzer) and, while their defense was mostly up for the task on this day, they did give up a touchdown pass just before halftime to give the Gophers a 10-6 lead at the break.
The third quarter did see a little improvement from the Spartan offense. After their first drive was a three-and-out, their second possession was easily their best of the day to that point. Starting deep in their own territory, Hauser moved the team across midfield. However, a costly holding penalty put the skids on the drive, and MSU ended up having to settle for a long field goal attempt which they ultimately missed.
While MSU did pick up their third takeaway of the game on Minnesota’s ensuing possession, an interception deep in the Gopher’s red zone, they were unable to do anything on offense once again. After Minnesota followed their interception up with a touchdown drive, Harlon Barnett opted to put true freshman Sam Leavitt in the game for the fourth quarter.
And wouldn’t you know it, MSU promptly scored a touchdown on an eight-play 75-yard drive that was capped by a nine-yard pass to Tyrell Henry. The failed two-point conversion kept the game at a five-point Gophers lead. But watching that drive, I have a strong feeling that we will see Mr. Leavitt get the start next weekend. Why not?
MSU tried the onside kick, a call I really appreciated, but were unable to make the recovery. Minnesota took advantage of the short field to drive down for a touchdown. They would add a field goal later sandwiched around a pair of MSU giveaways, and this game ended 27-12.
At least they weren’t shut out in this game but there is absolutely nothing enjoyable about watching this team play. The offensive line can’t do anything anymore. Nate Carter ended up with 44 yards on 11 carries, but 18 of those yards were on a rush where he got to the outside. His runs into the middle of the line were regularly snuffed for either a loss or a very short gain. In the passing game, we saw more dropped passes today from Foster and Mosley, who are supposed to be our best wide receivers. It did not help that Maliq Carr was not playing today.
As I mentioned above, the defense was respectable today, but eventually the inability to get first downs and sustain drives on offense led to them being on the field way too long. You could see them getting tired and less effective by the beginning of the fourth quarter. Let’s hope that Leavitt helps this team keep possession a little longer next week when we host the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Hey, if we win out, we can still go to a bowl game!