Spartans blast Gophers 51-17

Drew Stanton threw three touchdown passes, Jehuu Caulcrick rushed for two scores and Dave Rayner added three field goals as Michigan State blased the #19 ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers 51-17 shocking Big Ten observers and raising questions about themselves in the process.

(EAST LANSING) - Drew Stanton threw three touchdown passes, Jehuu Caulcrick rushed for two scores and Dave Rayner added three field goals as Michigan State blased the #19 ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers 51-17 shocking Big Ten observers and raising questions about themselves in the process.

As surprising as the score were the players who contributed. While Stanton's 103 yards rushing were no surprise, his 20-of-31-for 308 yards passing performance certainly was a surprise.

On the receiving end of two of those TD passes was senior tight end Eric Knott who, after being left off the Spartans depth chart altogether this week, seemed to be an afterthought.

Then there was the performance of the Spartans defense, holdling Minnesota super rushing duo of Lawrence Maroney and Marion Barber, III. to just 90 yards rushing on a combined 21 carries.

Most surprising was the way the Spartans completely shut down the running attack of the Golden Gophers, #1 in the conference coming into this game. MSU held Lawrence Maroney and Marion Barber, III to just 90 combined rushing yards on 21 total carries. As a team, Minnesota was held to a season low 128 yards rushing.

Newly released from coach John L. Smith's doghouse, Knott was quick to praise Stanton's performance. "Drew has a lot of energy and a lot of fire in him. He really gets everyone else going, and we look to him as a leader. Everyone feeds of the energy Drew brings. He gives us confidence in the huddle and everyone trusts him."

As for his tumultous relationship with the coaching staff, Knott just wanted to move on. "All I can do is get open and catch the ball when it's thrown to me. I think we have turned the corner as a team. What's in the past is in the past, for now we can just focus on Michigan."

Caulcrick started the scoring with an 18-yard lunge through the Gophers defense for a 7-0 lead before Stanton connected with Knott from 25-yards for a 14-0 MSU lead. Stanton was picked off by Justin Fraley at the Spartans 33-yard line and Minnesota got a Rhys Lloyd field goal for a 14-3 deficit.

Jason Teague got in on the scoring with a 43-yard burst through the Gophers defense to up the count to 21-3, but Golden Gophers quarterback Brian Cupito hooked up with freshman Ernie Wheelwright on the first of two scores to cut the lead to 21-10 before Stanton and Knott hooked up again for a 28-10 MSU lead.

Stanton was picked off a second time by Quentin White at the Minnesota 4-yard line but, when their drive stalled and down by 18, the Gophers were unable to convert on fourth down in Spartans territory. Stanton marched MSU right down the field, connecting with Matt Trannon for 29-yards and Jerramy Scott for 16 so that Dave Rayner could add the first of his three field goals to give MSU a 31-10 halftime lead.

Caulcrick scored the second of his two TDs rusing in from 10 yards out to cap a six play, 66-yard drive. Caulcrick credited the big MSU offensive line for the score.

"The offensive line did a great job opening holes up for us today," said Caulcrick. "On my second score, I almost couldn't believe how big the hole was. I think we were all clicking today as a unit, and that's our goal."

Tyrell Dortch picked off Minnesota quarterback Brian Cupito and MSU turned it into three more on a 23-yarder by Rayner. On MSU's next possession Rayner capped his day with a 37-yarder for a 44-10 Spartans lead.

Maroney fumbled the ensuing kickoff by the reply offical reviewed and overturned a MSU possession giving the ball back to the Gophers. Cupito connected for the second time with Wheelwright from 35-yards out to cut the score to a 44-17 deficit.

Stanton answered with a 56-yard strike to freshman receiver Terry Love to give State a 51-17 lead. Junior reserve corner Ashton Watson got in on the fun with an interception of Cupito.

Stanton attributed his breakout performance to keeping the offensive balanced. "With our balanced attack, we rushed and passed for over 300 yards today," observed Stanton. "Anytime you can be that effective running the ball or passing the ball, you are going to be successful."

Guard William Whitticker said he feels MSU can match any team in the conference. "We're just as good as other teams after putting up 300 yards in rushing and passing. We are just putting up all these yards rushing, and we're second in the Big Ten in rushing. I really feel that we're good, too."

Whitticker said Stanton is the reason MSU is clicking on all cylinders. "He's a confident player and brings us inspiration when he comes out on the field. That confidence spreads to the other guys on the team."

State coach John L. Smith, who grudingly turned over the reigns of his club to the Stanton says the sophomore is developing into a leader.

"He had a great day and played his tail off. It was great to see. He made a couple mistakes; he's going to kick himself in the tail about and he could have even done better. He's gelling and I like that we're starting to develop around that ability as an offense."

Meanwhile Minnesota Golden Gophers coach Glen Mason was at a loss to explain how Michigan State was able to so thoroughly thwart his team at every turn.

"I don't know where to begin," said Mason. "The first thing that comes to my mind is that this is the worst loss we have endured in the seven years plus since I have been here. The big question is why? I'm really not sure. I don't have the answers and really didn't see it coming. It's what you should expect with poor offensive and defensive performances."

MSU, with renewed confidence, now travels to Ann Arbor to face a Michigan team that is on top of the conference but struggled before finally putting away Illinois on the road Saturday.

After the stunning upset of Minnesota, State knows that it must regroup to face the balance test that the Michigan offense brings.

Next up: Michigan

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