EAST LANSING, Mich. – Five Gophers starters missed all or part of Saturday’s game against Michigan State: running back Marion Barber III, safety John Pawielski, wide receiver Jared Ellerson and offensive linemen Brandon Harston and Joe Ainslie.
Harston did not dress, Pawielski watched from the sidelines and Barber left in the second half after he got “a little banged up,” coach Glen Mason said. Running back Laurence Maroney also left briefly with a hand injury but did return.
Tackle Tony Brinkhaus also played most of the game in Joe Ainslie’s place, and Mike Nicholson started for Harston.
Quentin White started in Pawielski’s place and did make an interception in the second quarter. But Michigan State burned him on several long-pass plays.
Ellerson, who went down hard after he was sandwiched by two Michigan defenders last weekend, said last week he was fine but didn’t enter Saturday’s game until the second quarter.
Adding insult to injury
In case the final score didn’t do enough to accentuate just how much Minnesota’s football team lost in the 51-17 defeat, the superlatives put it into shocking clarity.
The defeat, which elevated a once-struggling Michigan State team to third place in the Big Ten and essentially ended the Gophers’ shot at the Rose Bowl, set a host of records on both sides.
Michigan State’s 34-point margin of victory was the largest in the 49-game history between the two teams, and the loss was the second-worst in Glen Mason’s eight-year tenure at Minnesota.
The Spartans’ 636 yards of offense were their most since a 55-7 win over Missouri in 2001 and the second-most a Mason-coached Gophers team has given up. The Spartans also set a school record with 407 yards in the first half.
“They just kept taking it to us, and it turned into an embarrassment,” quarterback Bryan Cupito said.
Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton, who passed for 308 yards and ran for 102, became the first Spartans quarterback ever to post 300 yards passing and 100 rushing in a game.
For a second-straight year, the Gophers essentially bid adieu to the Rose Bowl after a loss to Michigan State. The defeat dropped Minnesota to 2-2 in the Big Ten, meaning it is looking up at six teams – Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Northwestern and Iowa.
It’s conceivable the Gophers could vault past every team but Michigan with a host of help, but because Michigan owns the head-to-head tiebreaker on Minnesota, the Gophers need the Wolverines to lose three of their last four.
“The question now is, ‘Where do we go from here?’ ” Mason said. “I’m one of those guys that says, ‘If it’s broke, try anything.’ In some regards, I feel like it’s broke right now.”
The Bowl Championship Series standings debut today, and the Gophers could move up a bowl game if Wisconsin or Michigan ends up in a better game than the Rose Bowl. But if the season ended today, Minnesota would be scheduled for a third trip Dec. 27 to Michigan for the Motor City Bowl in Detroit.
If that happens, the Gophers might just want to stay home.