Gophers run Spartans into ground

by Brian Hall

EAST LANSING, Mich. – During Saturday’s Minnesota-Michigan State football game, the Spartan Stadium public address announcer proudly proclaimed a sellout homecoming crowd of 74,232 people, the 24th-straight sellout in East Lansing.

But with two minutes remaining in the contest, the Gophers’ small contingent of fans located in the northeast section of the stadium outnumbered the Spartans’ student section in the southeast area.

The Michigan State student body must have seen enough of Minnesota’s rushing attack. The Spartans’ defense surely did.

Lead by hometown hero Terry Jackson II, the Gophers ran all over Michigan State in the second half en route to a 28-7 win.

With the win, Minnesota earned a No. 25 ranking and its first 7-1 start to a season since holding the same record in 1961.

Minnesota (7-1, 3-1 Big Ten) compiled 390 yards rushing, including 238 yards by Jackson. The Gophers attempted only three passes in 41 second-half plays.

“The offensive line executed really well,” Jackson said. “That execution wore Michigan State down. We just pounded those guys, and I am thankful those linemen came to play today.”

Jackson, a Saginaw, Mich., native, passed the 200-yard rushing mark for the second game in a row, the first player in school history to accomplish the feat. He also surpassed 1,000 yards rushing this season.

With his 244 yards against Northwestern last week, Jackson posted the highest ever two-game rushing total in Gopher annals. His 482 yards bested the previous record by 42 yards.

The sophomore running back was not the only Gopher to make his mark on the Spartans’ defense.

Junior Thomas Tapeh totaled 147 yards on the ground, 141 in the second half alone, while the two became the first duo in Minnesota history to each post 100-yard efforts in three straight games.

“We continue to run the ball quite effectively,” coach Glen Mason said. “I am amazed by that group. We work hard to run the football. It went good today. Sometimes it goes well, sometimes it doesn’t.

“I know there is nothing more demoralizing than when you can’t stop the run,” Mason said.

Following the game, Jackson and Mason each praised the effort of the offensive line.

“It sounds unglamorous, but it is just blocking,” Mason said. “It is hard work. But they are doing a heck of a job.”

After Michigan State (3-4, 1-2) kicked off the scoring with running back David Richard’s one-yard touchdown dive on its first drive, the remainder of the game belonged to Minnesota.

On the Gophers’ second possession, Jackson ran four times for 32 yards before receiver Aaron Hosack out-jumped Michigan State cornerback Cedric Henry to come down with a fingertip 45-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq.

Minnesota’s seven-play, 96-yard scoring drive was its longest of the season and marked the first seven of 28 unanswered points.

Following the contest, a smiling Jackson slowly drifted around the north end of the stadium, sharing hugs and stopping for pictures with what remained of the sellout crowd.

Among those congratulating Jackson on the win and performance were former high school teammate and Spartans receiver Charles Rogers, Jackson’s family and other high school teammates and coaches.

“As it was Michigan State’s homecoming, it was my homecoming as well,” Jackson said. “I had a lot of family here, so I am just thankful. It’s great. I am just glad I got an opportunity to do so well here.”

Brian Hall covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]