Complete effort powers Gophers to home win

Matt Perkins

Minnesota’s football team has had its ups and downs this season in every aspect of the game.

Running against Penn State didn’t go so well, passing against Wisconsin wasn’t the best, the defense has given up more than 30 points four times this season and the kicking game ” pointless to point fingers at just one game.

But Saturday, the Gophers said they felt they had every facet of the game going their way for the first time all season in a 41-18 win over Michigan State.

“We played start to finish, I thought,” junior tight end Matt Spaeth said. “The kicking game, offense, defense, everybody played really well today.”

Perhaps more importantly, the Gophers played well for their seniors on senior day at the Metrodome.

“It’s pretty amazing,” senior guard Mark Setterstrom said. “It’s a great way to go out. It’s too bad it happened this fast ” the career went fast ” but we definitely can leave on a good note.”

Filling in the depth chart

The Gophers were missing four of their usual starters against Michigan State, but still managed to blow past the Spartans.

Defensively, it is unknown why the Gophers were without freshman defensive end Steve Davis and sophomore linebacker Mike Sherels, but their absence didn’t seem to have much of an effect on the defense.

The Gophers used their other three linebackers ” Kyle McKenzie, John Shevlin and Mario Reese ” to plug the Sherels hole and Eric Clark filled in for Davis. William Van DeSteeg also saw increased playing time in Davis’ absence.

Other notables missing from the Gophers lineup were senior wide receiver Jared Ellerson ” with a foot injury ” and junior running back Laurence Maroney ” with an ankle injury.

Containing the run

After the game, Minnesota attributed a lot of its success to its ability to stop the Michigan State running game before it started.

And it came from a perfectly executed game plan.

“They try to spread you out to kind of get you on your heels and try to run the ball on you,” defensive coordinator David Lockwood said. “The job for the guys up front, they had to stop the run. That’s what they did.”

Specifically, the Gophers were able to contain Spartan quarterback Drew Stanton, who has the ability to run for first downs if the pass option isn’t available.

“We game planned for that,” sophomore linebacker John Shevlin said. “We didn’t say we wanted to contain him, we said we wanted to take him down. And that’s what we did. We made him kind of play left-handed.”

Next week at Iowa

The Gophers’ last game of the season will be on the road next weekend when they travel to take on Iowa.

Minnesota will be playing for a 5-3 finish in the Big Ten and a possible spot in the Alamo Bowl if Ohio State can top Michigan at Michigan Stadium and other things break in the Gophers’ favor.

But without looking too far ahead, Minnesota just wants the coveted Floyd of Rosedale trophy back after losses to the Hawkeyes the past four seasons.

“We already got them on our minds,” Shevlin said after the game. “We’re going to go down there and we’re going to get Floyd back.”

On Saturday, Iowa beat Wisconsin 20-10 on the road to spoil Badgers coach Barry Alvarez’s final home game. The win also improved Iowa to 6-4 and sealed bowl eligibility for the Hawkeyes.