U traps Spartans under wheels of running game

Anthony Maggio

On Minnesota’s first touchdown in Saturday’s 28-19 victory, Marion Barber III pumped his fist and pointed at the crowd after scampering down the sideline for a career-long touchdown run of 40 yards.

Barber’s emotion and energy mirrored the intensity of a rushing game which overwhelmed Michigan State.

“On the first play, (excitement) is always what you feel when you get the ball,” Barber said. “I was just really excited.”

Both Barber, who led the team with 158 yards, and Tellis Redmon turned in monster performances, combining for 292 yards and three touchdowns on the day.

Saturday marked the first time two Gophers rushed for more than 100 yards in the same game since Billy Cockerham and Thomas Hamner both reached the century mark against Indiana in 1999.

As a whole, the team combined for 322 rushing yards on 42 attempts, the largest total since Sept. 8 when Minnesota ran for 331 yards against Louisiana-Lafayette.

Entering the game as the Big Ten’s second-ranked rushing offense, it’s no surprise the Gophers ran the ball as much as they did.

“We’re always going to be a run first, pass second team,” center Derek Burns said.

Minnesota’s first scoring drive of 76 yards was all gained on the ground. The end result was Barber’s first of two touchdowns on the day.

Redmon, who finished with 134 yards, tallied more carries early, getting six of the first seven handoffs in the first quarter.

But over the final three quarters, the ball was distributed evenly between the two backs. Redmon finished with 22 carries, Barber had 15.

Sharing backfield duties this season has paid off for both athletes.

“(Barber) helps me out a lot because in the fourth quarter I used to be worn down last year,” Redmon said. “Now my legs are fresh because I have a backup to help me out. He also takes a lot of pressure off of me because I know when he’s in there he’s going to do a great job.”

The two-back rotation kept each runner fresh into the crucial fourth quarter.

On Minnesota’s first drive of the fourth quarter, Barber ran the ball three times for 11 yards while Redmon rushed five times for 19 yards and a touchdown. The score put the Gophers ahead 21-17.

The next Minnesota possession consisted of five running plays for 57 yards, capped with Barber’s 39-yard touchdown run.

But more impressive than the numbers was solid play from the offensive line.

“The offensive line did a great job today,” Redmon said. “The holes were big – five people could’ve run through there.”

Both backs said Saturday’s game was the best the offensive line has played all year.

When they weren’t running through mammoth holes, both Redmon and Barber broke tackles consistently throughout the game.

“Any time your linebackers miss tackles, it’s not going to be good,” Michigan State linebacker Josh Thornhill said.

The Spartans were surprised at Gophers success running the ball. Prior to Saturday’s game, Michigan State’s defense gave up an average of 164 rushing yards a game. The number was almost doubled by Minnesota.

“Minnesota’s got a very good offensive line,” Michigan State head coach Bobby Williams said. “We missed some tackles, which allowed them to get some extra yards after the first hit. But you’ve got to give those guys some credit too, they did a great job.”

Minnesota’s running game propelled the team to a desperately needed win, and its continued success will be key to keeping bowl berth hopes alive this season.

 

Anthony Maggio covers football and
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