There was good news and bad news in the 44-38 loss to Michigan State.
The bad news was a terrible start that saw the Gophers fall behind 17-0. More bad news was allowing 10 points in the final 43 seconds of the first half after the Gophers had clawed within seven points.
The good news was that this team climbed out of its early hole and had a chance to win if it could have recovered a last-minute onside kick. Considering that Minnesota had blown a 21-point fourth quarter lead in its loss to Michigan last week, there was very little self-pity from a team that could have gone into a shell for 60 minutes.
"If you would have told me before the game that we would have had three fumbles, given up a kickoff return for a touchdown and rushed for less than 150 yards," Minnesota coach Glen Mason said, "I would have told you we would have lost by 60 points. That shows how well this team hung in there and battled."
Minnesota showed in defeat that it is not a one-dimensional attack. The running game that had crushed Michigan for 424 yards a week earlier was held to 148 yards. The Spartans regularly had eight and nine men in the box and held Marion Barber to 19 yards on 14 carries. However, QB Asad Abdul-Khaliq was excellent. He was cool despite operating from a deficit, completing 27-of-40 passes for 377 yards and four touchdowns.
Two of those touchdowns came late in the fourth quarter and allowed the Gophers to cut the deficit to 44-38. After the last TD pass — and 8-yarder to Aaron Hosack — the Gophers attempted an onside kick. But the Spartans recovered ... and that was that.
The Gophers should have a great opportunity to get back on the winning track at Illinois this week.
GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Asad Abdul-Khaliq — With the Spartans putting eight and nine men up front to stop the vaunted Minnesota running game, Abdul-Khaliq was sensational in the passing game. He completed 27-of-40 passes for 377 yards with four TDs and no interceptions.
KEEP YOUR EYE ON: WR Aaron Hosack — He had a career day as he caught eight passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns. At 6-5 and 210 pounds, Hosack consistently won the fight when the ball was in the air.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We knew they were going to do everything they could to stop the run. We had to get production from the passing game." — Minnesota head coach Glen Mason on an air attack that gained 377 yards against Michigan State.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: The Gophers showed plenty of fighting spirit after their debacle against Michigan and falling behind by 17 points against Michigan State. A lot of teams would have quit under similar circumstances, but the Gophers righted themselves and came back and had a chance to win it late in the fourth quarter.
STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: Special teams play was awful, as the Gophers gave up a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown shortly before the end of the first half after Minnesota had stemmed Michigan State's early momentum. Minnesota also fumbled the opening kickoff and gave the Spartans a chance to get on the scoreboard early.
INJURY IMPACT: No new injuries were reported.
The good, bad and ugly
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