Found November 24, 2012 on
Fox Sports North:
MINNEAPOLIS Already bowl eligible, the University of Minnesota football team had less on the line than the visiting Michigan State Spartans on Saturday. MSU came to TCF Bank Stadium with a 5-6 record, needing one more win to become bowl eligible. The Spartans took care of business, beating the Gophers26-10. Minnesota's loss was overshadowed by yet another seizure by head coach Jerry Kill, which kept him from being on the sideline during the second half. Without their coach out there in the second half, the Gophers were outscored 13-3 after halftime. Here are five things we learned from Minnesota's loss to Michigan State.
1. Where was the Gophers offense?
Minnesota knew it was up against one of the toughest defenses in the Big Ten when it faced Michigan State. The offensive output from the game against the Spartans was probably not what the Gophers envisioned, though.
At the end of the game, Minnesota had just four rushing yards. The Gophers didn't have much success through the air, either, as they had 92 passing yards on 13-of-30 passing. Starting quarterback Philip Nelson threw three interceptions, while backup Max Shortell also threw one. Nelson was 10-of-23 for 61 yards, his third consecutive game of less than 100 passing yards. Nelson threw for 59 yards last weekend against Nebraska and 78 yards the game before that against Illinois.
"We knew that they had a great D-line and they'd be able to get push and collapse the pocket," Nelson said of the Spartans. "That's where, as a quarterback, you've got to be able to on the run make plays and figure things out."
2. Michigan State is going bowling.
The Spartans came into Saturday's game needing a win to become bowl eligible. With their 26-10 victory, they did just that.
Michigan State certainly appeared better than a 5-6 team on Saturday against the Gophers. The Spartans were coming off back-to-back losses of a combined seven points a four-point loss to No. 20 Nebraska and a 23-20 loss to Northwestern last Saturday. Of MSU's five losses, four have been by four points or fewer.
Now, both Minnesota and Michigan State are 6-6. Given their win over the Gophers, the Spartans should get a spot in a better bowl game than Minnesota after Saturday's must-win game.
"I felt like if we came to play, we'd win the football game," said MSU coach Mark Dantonio. "As you can see, nothing's easy. Nevertheless, we got through it."
3. Spartans running back Le'Veon Bell is the real deal.
Bell trailed only Wisconsin running back Montee Ball in average yards per game. Through 11 games, Bell was averaging 125.6 yards per contest and added 10 touchdowns.
Against Minnesota's porous rushing defense, Bell had a career day. He ran for 266 yards and a touchdown on 35 carries an average of 7.6 yards per run. Bell's longest run of the day was a 40-yard scamper in which he carried Gophers safety Derrick Wells for about 20 yards before Wells finally brought him down.
Minnesota's run defense has struggled for much of its Big Ten schedule. Saturday was no exception.
"He was a heck of a player," said Gophers defensive lineman D.L. Wilhite. "I think he is definitely one of the best backs we saw all year. The stats show that he had a great game with 270 yards. I can't take anything away from him."
4. While the rushing defense struggled, the passing defense rebounded from last weekend.
The Gophers surrendered 311 passing yards to Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez last Saturday. One week later, Minnesota's secondary clamped down against Michigan State quarterback Andrew Maxwell. The Spartans junior entered Saturday's game averaging 221.4 passing yards per game, but the Gophers held him to 143 yards on 13-of-29 passing.
That also included a pair of interceptions by Minnesota's defense one of which was returned 33 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Aaron Hill. The pick-six gave Minnesota a 7-3 lead in the first quarter and seemed to give the Gophers momentum. Hill made an athletic play to intercept Maxwell and then tiptoed down the sideline for the score.
"It just so happened I was in the right place," Hill said. "I was actually surprised that he threw it because I thought he saw me out there. I'd say the toughest art was seeing the ball and catching it, and then realizing that I had the ball."
Safety Brock Vereen also intercepted Maxwell on the goal line and ran it back 30 yards. Vereen's second-quarter interception was his second of the year.
Minnesota was also able to pressure Maxwell throughout the game. The Gophers had two sacks Saturday, including one by D.L Wilhite. That sack gave Wilhite 8.5 on the season, which ranks seventh all-time on Minnesota's single-season list.
5. The Gophers now have 15 practices to get better.
While Minnesota was no doubt disappointed it didn't end the regular season 7-5 instead of 6-6, several of the Gophers players took solace in the fact that the team now has 15 practices leading up to the bowl game in which to work out the kinks.
If Saturday was any indication, the Gophers have plenty to work on and they didn't seem to care which bowl game they play in.
"It doesn't matter at this point. We want to be able to get in and get 15 practices because we need that right now," Nelson said. "This is basically spring ball to us, the 15 practices. We can benefit from that for right now and the future and going into next spring."
Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
Career touchdown leader Montee Ball of Wisconsin was selected the Big Ten's top running back for the second straight year and was a first-team all-conference pick by both the coaches and media.
The announcement Monday came two days after he became the NCAA's all-time leader in touchdowns. He set the record with his 79th TD when he scored on a 17-yard run Saturday against...
Tweet The season started with Heisman hopes for Wisconsin Badgers running back Montee Ball. Unfortunately it will end without a return trip to New York for this year’s ceremony. But the senior is putting the finishing touches on a memorable year (and career), one he can be more than proud of. Last month Montee [...]
Penn State cornerback Stephon Morris doesn't believe the rumor about Montee Ball, the one about the Wisconsin tailback having a ''down year.''
If 1,400 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns are disappointing, imagine what the Wisconsin star senior can do in a good season.
This is the predicament facing the Nittany Lions (7-4, 5-2 Big Ten) when Ball and the Badgers...
MADISON, Wis. Wisconsin senior running back Montee Ball has made a habit in his career of dominating Big Ten defenses. It's no surprise, then, that Ball has been named the Big Ten's Running Back of the Year for a second consecutive season.
Ball, a consensus first-team all-conference selection, was announced as the Ameche-Dayne winner on Monday. He joins left tackle Ricky...
MADISON, Wis. When the pulse of a town and ultimately one's job security hinges on the outcome of football games each Saturday in the fall, a college coach will delve to great depths to summon an answer for a loss.
Sometimes, he may even turn to a higher power.
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema has endured a season unlike any in his seven-year tenure with the Badgers. Six new assistant...
Tonight the Big Ten will release the 2012-13 All Big Ten football teams. I offer my picks below.
QB: Braxton Miller, Ohio State
RB: Montee Ball, Wisconsin
RB: Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State
WR: Allen Robinson, Penn State
WR: Kenny Bell, Nebraska
TE: Kyle Carter, Penn State
OL: Travis Frederick, Wisconsin
OL: Spencer Long, Nebraska
OL: Andrew Norwell, Ohio State...
MINNEAPOLIS Turnovers and a lack of offense plagued the University of Minnesota football team in Saturday's 26-10 loss to Michigan State in the regular-season finale. The Gophers held a brief one-point lead in the first half but were outscored 13-3 after halftime as they fell to 6-6 on the season. Here are the grades for Minnesota's lackluster performance against the Spartans...
If there is another team in college football that has endured more hard-luck losses this season than Wisconsin, you'd be hard-pressed to find it. On Saturday, Wisconsin dropped a heart-stopping 24-21 overtime decision against Penn State, marking the Badgers' second straight overtime loss.
Wisconsin lost, 21-14, in overtime last week to Ohio State. And two games before that...
There's been chatter abound about how this game is meaningless to the Badgers, but try telling that to a coach who's pushing for a trophy game against the Nittany Lions and recruits against them heavily every season. Oh, and there's this little record Montee Ball is looking to break and all...
Pretty sure this game has meaning for the Badgers, but just what must...
The courses for the Big Ten championship game opponents were set when they met in late September.
Nebraska came back from a 17-point, third-quarter deficit to beat Wisconsin 30-27 in the conference opener.
The 14th-ranked Cornhuskers continued to win close games. The Badgers kept losing them.
Another tight game is expected when Nebraska (10-2, 7-1 Big Ten) and Wisconsin (7-5,...
If you don't already love BTN (and who doesn't that's reading this?) then I present to you the exact reasons you should. Their ability to drag out and analyize instantly the unveiling of the coaches and media all-Big Ten teams on an annual basis. No other conference can say they've got a complete special aired on national cable telelvision just to announce who the...
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema understands a lot of people believe his Badgers don't deserve to be playing in the Big Ten championship game.
Asked if he's insulted by the sentiment, he says he's not.
''I appreciate the question and understand it totally,'' he said Sunday. ''I think there are 10 teams out there in the Big Ten that would love to...