Game Recap: Michigan State

The Spartans won 31-8 on their home field Saturday, handing the Gophers a ninth consecutive loss. Michigan State was led by running back Edwin Baker, who gashed through a depleted Minnesota defense for 179 and four touchdowns on the 27 carries.

GAME NOTES, QUOTES

--Linebacker Mike Rallis recorded his team-high third interception against Michigan State, when he intercepted a Kirk Cousins' pass in the fourth quarter.

--Junior linebacker Gary Tinsley leads the team in tackles with 74. He has produced four double digits tackle games this season. He also recorded the first sack of the season for the Minnesota linebacker corps against Michigan State. It was just the fifth sack of the season for the Gopher defense.

Quarterback Adam Weber
(AP Photo/Paul Battaglia)

The senior captain moved into fourth place on the Big Ten's career-passing list with 10,528 yards, passing Iowa great Chuck Long.
--Wide receiver Da'Jon McKnight caught four passes for 57 yards against Michigan State, extending his streak of consecutive games with a catch to 15.

--Curtis Hughes, usually a blocking tight end, was used on the defensive line against Michigan State. The line was short on personnel due to injuries and the suspensions of Brandon Kirksey and Ra'Shede Hageman.

GAME BALL GOES TO:

--TE Eric Lair -- The junior tight end re-emerged as a receiving threat against Michigan State after not getting many opportunities for a couple of weeks. Lair caught four passes for 59 yards for an average of 14.8 yards a catch. He had a long gain of 27 yards. Lair also picked up first down, when he took the long snap on a fake punt and ran for a nine-yard gain.

KEEP AN EYE ON:

--QB/WR MarQueis Gray -- Coach Jeff Horton said earlier in the week that Gray wouldn't line up under center because the Gophers' present offensive system didn't fit his running talents. He also mentioned it would keep one of the Gophers best offensive players, Adam Weber, sidelined.

The coach changed his mind and had Gray replace Weber for a few plays. Gray, who is considered to be Minnesota's quarterback of the future, ran five times for 31 yards and completed two of six passes for 24 yards.

QUOTES TO NOTE:

--"Adam Weber handles everything, just like I have said 10 million times, he handles everything better than anyone in this room and probably better than anyone in this state. Adam Weber is the ultimate Gopher. You do not ever have to worry about Adam Weber." -- Interim head coach Jeff Horton, on his senior quarterback.

--"I think our pressure had a lot to do with the offensive line we were facing. I know a lot of people dog our defensive line with our pass rush, but things could be better, but they could also be a lot worse." -- Defensive tackle Austin Hahn, on the defensive line getting pressuring the quarterback.

--"I wasn't nervous at all, we had nothing to lose, I was just out there having fun…Nothing to be nervous about." -- MarQueis Gray, on his mindset while playing quarterback against Michigan State.

ATHLETE MarQueis GRAY
(Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn)

Minnesota's quarterback of the future, ran five times for 31 yards and completed two of six passes for 24 yards.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

LOOKING GOOD:

--The Gophers caught a glimpse of the future when Gray lined up under center, late in the first quarter. Gray played unspectacular but he didn't play poorly. He had a couple of arrant passes but that is almost expected to happen from a player whose only pass attempts come in practice, not against one of the Big Ten's best defenses.

The biggest surprise was how composed he seemed on the field and in the huddle. Gray mentioned after the game he felt no pressure playing quarterback and just went out there and had fun. It should be fun for Gopher fans to watch the development of the supremely talented Gray, when he channels his focus to quarterback for the next two years.

STILL NEEDS WORK:

--The poor kicking game of the Gophers continues to plague them seemingly every game. Minnesota's first drive to open the game looked promising until kicker Eric Ellestad missed a 32-yard field goal. It's doubtful the kick would have impacted the outcome of the game but when a team is 1-8 entering the game, any bit of momentum is considered necessary.

The punting game wasn't immune from being consistently inconsistent either. Punter Dan Oreske's problems showed up again against the Spartans when he averaged only 36 yards on three punts. Giving the opponents excellent field position time and again is no way to help a struggling Gopher defense.

ROSTER REPORT:

--OG Matt Carufel injured his knee in the Ohio State game and was out against Michigan State. Ryan Orton replaced Carufel at offensive guard.

--OT Dom Alford didn't play against Michigan State because of a knee injury.

--FB Jon Hoese, who suffered a hamstring injury against Penn State, returned for the Michigan State game.

--RB Donnell Kirkwood hasn't played since being injured against Wisconsin. He is battling both a calf and hamstring injury.

--S Kim Royston has yet to play in a game after breaking both bones in his left leg during spring ball.


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