Michigan State’s miscues add up in sloppy effort

Jabari Ritchie

Early in Saturday’s game, Michigan State’s football team looked as if it could move downfield at will.

After forcing Minnesota to punt, the Spartans marched 63 yards for a touchdown on their first drive. Quarterback Jeff Smoker found his receivers with ease, completing five of six passes.

Michigan State continued to move the ball well, gaining 472 yards and 29 first downs in the game, but the Gophers defense held the Spartans to just two touchdowns in a 28-19 victory.

“You want to score points,” said Michigan State fullback Dawan Moss. “That’s what the offense is supposed to do. It’s kind of tough when you get way down into the red zone and you can’t score.”

After giving up 400 yards and 23 first downs to enter the fourth quarter with a 17-14 deficit, the Gophers dominated the final quarter, outgaining Michigan State 124-72.

“We can make all the first downs we want, but if we don’t score points we’re going to lose games,” said Michigan State receiver Herb Haygood.

Two Spartans turnovers in Minnesota territory – a fumble by Baker in the second and an interception late in the fourth – and dropped passes by Michigan State receivers snuffed several drives.

“They had a lot of key drops and we had a lot of battered balls,” said Gophers safety Jack Brewer, who recovered Baker’s fumble. “When you’re throwing the ball around a lot, you’re going to have mistakes, sacks, drops and deflections.”

Smoker was 5 of 11 for 43 yards and an interception as in the fourth.

“They were hitting those little short passes, and we had to adjust to it,” Minnesota coach Glen Mason said. “Those guys are good wide receivers, they can go downtown with the best of them.”

The Gophers forced Michigan State to rely on its passing game by holding Moss and T.J. Duckett to 39 yards on 12 attempts in the first half.

“We stuffed them, and that’s what you’ve got to do,” Brewer said. “We always come out wanting to stop the run first and we did that today.”

QB problem solved?

Although sophomore Asad Abdul-Khaliq played the entire game at quarterback, Mason insists it doesn’t mean senior Travis Cole won’t see action in future games.

“Don’t read anything into that,” Mason said. “It was just, `Why would I make the switch the way the game was going.'”

Abdul-Khaliq finished the game 11 of 23 for 124 yards passing with one touchdown. He also ran for 42 yards. Cole, meanwhile, wore a black baseball hat on the sidelines the entire game.

Siblings in demand

After freshman Marion Barber III rushed for 158 yards on 15 carries with two touchdowns, Mason expressed a small complaint toward Barber’s parents.

“I am really ticked off at Marion II and Karen Barber,” Mason said. “I wish they had about 12 or 13 kids they could send to the `U,’ because I have room for them.”

 

Ugly end zones

Saturday’s game was the first for the Gophers with the new-look end zones. The only gold remaining was a rectangle in each end zone, which read “Minnesota” and “Golden Gophers.”

The remainder of the gold was painted a darker shade of green, but another coat is likely needed as gold could be seen in spots throughout the end zones.

The new look was made to ensure no more controversial calls involving the white out-of-bounds line, such as the one Minnesota fell victim to in overtime of the Purdue game on Sept. 29.

Injury update

Ryan Roth, who missed the last four games because of a calf injury, returned to action as a backup offensive lineman against the Spartans.

Defensive tackle Darrell Reid sprained his ankle in the third quarter and did not return. Mason said, “He’ll be OK.”

Defensive end Astein Osei was also shaken up in the third but returned to action after being fitted with a knee brace.

 

— John R. Carter contributed to this report

 

Jabari Ritchie welcomes comments at [email protected]