After a season of tough breaks, the Spartans finally got one to go their way, using an odd bounce to take a halftime lead.
A pass deflected off the hands of sophomore receiver Tony Lippett into the hands of junior receiver Bennie Fowler for a 41-yard go-ahead touchdown to give the MSU football team (5-6 overall, 2-5 Big Ten) a 13-7 lead over Minnesota (6-5, 2-5) at the end of the first half.
MSU’s defense got the Spartans going early, with an 11-yard interception return by senior cornerback Johnny Adams giving the Spartans the ball deep in Minnesota territory.
The interception was one of two by Adams in the first half.
MSU capitalized on the first turnover when senior kicker Dan Conroy hit a 48-yard field goal to give MSU an early 3-0 lead.
The Spartans defense remained stout on its second possession, forcing a three-and-out to give the offense good field position again, this time at MSU’s 44-yard line.
A 26-yard burst from junior running back Le’Veon Bell put the Spartans back in scoring range, but a dropped pass forced MSU to settle for a field goal.
Yet this time, Conroy was unable to connect from 42 yards out, keeping the score at 3-0.
After another three-and-out for Minnesota’s offense, it was their defense that helped the Golden Gophers find the end zone.
Minnesota junior linebacker Aaron Hill picked off junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell and returned the interception 33 yards to give Minnesota the lead, 7-3, with 4:43 to go in the first quarter.
Bell responded for the Spartans on their next possession, with a 40-yard burst to carry MSU into Minnesota territory, before Conroy cashed in the drive with a 43-yard field goal to bring the Spartans within one, 7-6, with 1:29 to go in the first quarter.
Bell was MSU’s most consistent source of offense in the first half, rushing for 124 yards on 12 carries.
With the Spartans driving deep into Minnesota territory, looking to take the lead, Maxwell was intercepted near the goal line by junior defensive back Brock Vereen, who returned the interception 30 yards.
Minnesota is 6-2 this season when forcing a turnover, but the Golden Gophers were outgained by the Spartans by 195 yards in the first half, as Minnesota was held to 53 yards of total offense.
Maxwell completed 10-of-20 passes for 121 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in the first half.
MSU needs to win the game to become bowl-eligible and extend head coach Mark Dantonio’s streak of reaching a bowl game in each of Dantonio’s previous five seasons as head coach.