#15 Sparty vs. Minnesota

Week 10: #15 Michigan St. (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten Legends) vs. Minnesota (2-6, 1-3 Big Ten Legends)

Well, last Saturday was…bad. Coming off of arguably the most dramatic win in school history, a 37-31, Hail Mary, last-second win over previously fourth-ranked Wisconsin, Sparty laid a complete dud in Lincoln against host Nebraska. While the defense held Huskers QB Taylor Martinez to only 103 yards of total offense and a touchdown, RB Rex Burkhead was the difference, running 35 times for 130 yards and 2 scores. A MSU run D that came into the game allowing only 67 yards per game allowed 190 (albeit on a whopping 58 carries) and just couldn’t get Nebraska off the field when it counted. To make matters worse, Sparty’s running game was once again virtually non-existent against a solid team and QB Kirk Cousins road woes (205.6 ypg, 69 CMP%, 9 TD, 1 INT, 164.8 RAT at home/221.7 ypg, 58 CMP%, 2 TD, 4 INT, 106.7 RAT away) continued. 11-27 for 86 yards and an INT most likely won’t get the job done, whether your opponent is Nebraska on the road, or Nebraska on the moon. Instead of being in the catbird seat in the Legends Division, Sparty is now looking up at Nebraska and will most certainly be doing some cheering for their opponent today, Northwestern.

If you would’ve told me or anyone else before the game that Sparty’s D would hold Nebraska’s O to over 150 yards less than their per game average, I would’ve told you that Sparty would win…convincingly. However, Nebraska’s D was up to the task against a rather mediocre Sparty offense, holding them to 200 yards less than their per game average. Anyone who has watched MSU play this year knows that while their defense has been mostly outstanding (save the Notre Dame game), their offense has been the difference between an undefeated and two-loss team.

To say Dantonio was disappointed after the Nebraska game would be a huge understatement. Despite the loss, he kept things in perspective after the game. “This is about the long haul. This isn’t about one game,” said Dantonio. “All of our goals are in front of us. We have to play through the schedule. There are disappointed guys in the locker room, but we will respond.”

Luckily, lowly Minnesota is Sparty’s opponent today. Despite their paltry record, Minnesota got their first conference win of the season last Saturday, a come-from-behind 22-21 win over visiting Iowa. Trailing 21-10 with just under 8:30 in regulation, Gophers QB Marqueis Gray (11-17, 193 YDS, TD/11 CAR, 62 YDS, 1 TD) led a furious comeback, resulting with his 3-yard touchdown run with less than 3 minutes to play. DB Kim Royston was all over the place with a game-high 16 tackles and even recovered the onside kick that set up Minnesota’s game-winning touchdown drive.

Key Spartans:

QB Kirk Cousins: 1693 YDS, 11 TD, 5 INT, 63.6 CMP%, 136.6 RAT

RB Le’Veon Bell: 87 CAR, 432 YDS, 6 TD

WR B.J. Cunningham: 48 CAT, 723 YDS, 3 TD

LB Max Bullough: 50 TKL, 3 TFL, 1.5 Sacks, 1 INT

Key Gophers:

QB Marqueis Gray: 940 YDS, 4 TD, 4 INT, 50.8 CMP%, 114.5 RAT

RB Duane Bennett: 100 CAR, 406 YDS, 3 TD

WR Da’Jon McKnight: 32 CAT, 455 YDS, 1 TD

DB Kim Royston: 77 TKL

MSU Offense (national ranking in parentheses):

Total: 363.6 ypg (84), Passing: 230.3 ypg (60), Rushing: 133.4 ypg (81), Scoring: 26 ppg (73)

Minnesota Offense:

Total: 303.4 ypg (112), Passing: 156 ypg (107), Rushing: 147.3 ypg (73), Scoring: 18 ppg (112)

MSU Defense:

Total: 228.8 ypg (2), Passing: 127.3 ypg (1), Rushing: 101.5 ypg (12), Scoring: 15 ppg (6)

Minnesota Defense:

Total: 430.8 ypg (98), Passing: 229 ypg (67), Rushing: 201.8 ypg (103), Scoring: 34 ppg (104)

To be concise, Minnesota stinks. On both sides of the ball. Bell should get the start again today for Sparty and I’d be surprised if he finishes with less than 100 yards on the ground against the porous Gophers run D. Even Cousins, Cunningham, and WR Keshawn Martin (32 CAT, 307 YDS, 3 TD) should easily find success against this Minnesota team. Minnesota HC Jerry Kill should be happy with their upset over Iowa last week and pray that his team can hit double digits in scoring against a Spartans team that will certainly be looking to do what they wanted to last week: Get one step closer to Indianapolis.

Sparty wins big, 41-7.

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