Offenses expected to produce at Dome

by David McCoy

The “definition of a dual-threat quarterback” will meet the team with the dual-threat running game Saturday.

Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton threw for 308 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another 102 in last year’s 51-17 drubbing of Minnesota’s football team.

Gophers running backs Laurence Maroney and Gary Russell will make Minnesota the only team in NCAA history to have two running backs rush for 1,000 yards in a season if Russell gains 118 yards before the end of the season.

So when Minnesota (6-3, 3-3 Big Ten) plays host to the Spartans (5-4, 2-4 Big Ten) at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Metrodome, there’s little doubt a shootout will ensue.

So what about the defense?

“Hopefully it won’t come down to that, but if it comes down to a shootout, we’re ready,” Maroney said. “The defense has been playing well, though. Hopefully the defense can take a little pressure off us so that we don’t have to get into a shootout. (Then) we’ll be able to just go out there and play our game.”

Michigan State is fifth nationally in total offense, 11th in scoring offense and 14th in passing offense while Minnesota is first in rushing, sixth in total offense and 12th in scoring offense.

“It might be a shootout,” linebacker John Shevlin said. “I think there are obviously two of the great offenses in the Big Ten. It just comes down to who makes more plays, I think.”

But while both teams feature high-powered offenses, their defenses have showed some leniency this season.

The Spartans are 90th in defense and tied with the Gophers for 70th in scoring defense. Minnesota is 65th in defense.

“They’re a team that you have to jump on early,” Gophers safety John Pawielski said. “If they start clicking, they’re hard to stop. But we definitely feel like if we can get up early on them, get them in a pass-only situation, we can limit what they do.”

The Gophers certainly have momentum in their favor. Each of the past two seasons, Minnesota went into its game with Michigan State on the heels of emotionally draining losses to Michigan – its first loss of the year on both occasions.

But this time, Minnesota is coming off a solid 42-21 win Saturday at Indiana.

“There’s definitely a different attitude when you’re coming off a win,” Pawielski said.

Meanwhile, Michigan State is coming off its worst offensive performance of the season. In its 28-21 loss to Purdue on Saturday, the Spartans gained only 351 yards of total offense.

Going into a game where the teams could combine for more than 1,000 yards of total offense, that’s saying something.

“With two such high-powered offenses like this, definitely whichever defense steps up and makes more plays and contains the offense better is going to have the best chance to win,” Pawielski said.