Michigan State suffered a 34-7 loss to open Big Ten play against Minnesota, racking its second straight loss. The Spartans will likely need to revisit their game plan going forward after getting outplayed on both sides of the ball.
After making great strides against Washington last week, redshirt junior quarterback Payton Thorne struggled to get much going offensively. He threw for 132 yards, zero touchdown passes and two interceptions.
While there’s no doubt Thorne’s play was less than satisfactory, the offense as a whole didn’t get many chances to take the field.
The MSU offense was on the field for only about 16 minutes, compared to Minnesota’s 42 minutes of possession. This was largely in part to the defense’s inability to slow down any part of the Gopher offense, specifically their passing game.
Mirroring last week’s game against Washington, the defense had no answer for sixth-year quarterback Tanner Morgan who threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns.
Minnesota wasted no time taking advantage of the struggling Spartan secondary. Morgan threw for 55 yards in their opening drive to march the Gophers down the field almost immediately.
They also found holes in the MSU defensive line to get their run game going early. Sixth year running back Mohamed Ibrahim ran for a total of 23 yards and gave Minnesota their first touchdown of the game on a quick two-yard rush.
On their second drive, the Gophers had a similar game plan as Morgan continued to rip apart MSU’s secondary. The Spartan defense finally thought they had caught a break on a third down and 12 for Minnesota, but Morgan took it himself and ran for 15 to get the first down.
On the very next play, he threw it to junior wide receiver Daniel Jackson, who fought off an MSU defender to stay in bounds in the endzone, and came down with the ball, giving the Gophers a quick 14-0 lead.
Michigan State’s offense, however, had the complete opposite start.
The Spartans went three-and-out in their first two drives in which everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. Thorne only completed one pass for three yards and took a sack.
The Gophers continued their momentum into the second quarter, but the MSU defense slightly rebounded and limited them to a field goal after giving up 50 more passing yards to Morgan.
Down by 17 and still unable to get anything going, three plays into their third drive, the Spartans found themselves going for it on fourth and four.
Thorne readied himself to try and give his team some much needed offensive momentum the first down would bring, and instead threw the ball directly into the hands of sophomore defensive back Justin Walley for an interception.
What was appearing to be another Minnesota scoring drive was foiled by a forced fumble from senior linebacker Jacoby Windmon. Windmon took down Minnesota’s leading rusher Ibrahim at MSU’s 26-yard line to stop the bleeding and finally give the ball back to the offense.
Despite still being down 17, things were looking up for the Spartans coming out of the locker room after halftime. Thorne seemed to find his stride and threw for 59 yards in the second half opening drive, and fifth-year running back Jarek Broussard was doing his part to get the Spartans down the field.
All was going according to plan until Thorne decided to take it himself on first and six at the Minnesota 6-yard line, where he was taken down by fifth year defensive lineman Thomas Rush and fumbled the ball.
It didn’t take long for the Gophers to score again after regaining possession. Morgan and Ibrahim worked together to combine the passing and the running game to eviscerate the MSU defense. Ultimately Morgan threw a six-yard touchdown to redshirt junior tight end Nick Kallerup to give Minnesota a 24-0 lead.
MSU’s offense once again had no answer.
Thorne came out with a solid 13-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Keon Coleman for the first down, but the ball stopped there. On the next play Thorne threw his second interception of the night for his third turnover overall.
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Minnesota then capitalized again on MSU’s offensive woes with a quick four-yard pass from Morgan to Jackson to put salt in the wound and extend their lead to 31.
After MSU was unable to move the ball on their next offensive drive, Minnesota took control once again and drove the ball down the field before getting stopped just short of the goal line. Fifth year kicker Matthew Trickett was then called in for the field goal to put the final nail in the coffin and seal the win for Minnesota.
Before the clock struck zero, redshirt sophomore quarterback Noah Kim was called in to lead MSU's last offensive drive of the game. Kim led the Spartans down the field rather quickly and completed a 27-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Germie Bernard to avoid the shut out.
The Spartans will try to bounce back from this embarrassing loss next Saturday when they travel to College Park to take on the Terrapins.
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