MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- After watching Minnesota score to pull within
a touchdown late in the second quarter, Michigan State coach John
L. Smith approached his kick return unit on the sideline.
"I said, 'What can you do with 43 seconds?' They said, 'Coach,
we can take it back."
DeAndra Cobb's 100-yard kickoff return gave control back to
Michigan State and the Spartans (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 15 AP) beat the Gophers (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 25 AP) 44-38 on Saturday.
Jeff Smoker led Michigan State with 252 yards passing and ran
for a touchdown.
Jaren Hayes had two touchdown runs for the Spartans (7-1, 4-0
Big Ten), who won their fifth straight and snapped a three-game
losing streak to the Gophers. Dave Rayner kicked field goals of 46,
50 and 52 yards for Michigan State.
The Spartans are off to a 4-0 Big Ten start for only the third
time in school history. The previous two times, Michigan State went
on to win back-to-back conference titles in 1965-66.
"I would say that we are contenders," Smith said. "We have a
chance. We've played awfully good. This is the start of the
They appeared to seal the win on Jason Teague's 60-yard TD run
with 6:47 to play.
But Minnesota managed to put together two late scoring drives.
Jakari Wallace caught his first career TD pass on a 23-yard pass
from Asad Abdul-Khaliq with 4:47 left. And Aaron Hosack hauled in
an 8-yard reception, his second score of the day, to make it 44-38.
But Minnesota failed to recover an onside kick and the Spartans
ran out the clock to become the only Big Ten team with a 4-0
"We are good as of right now," Rayner said. "But we have
other games to play. I think we are a contender though."
The Gophers lost their second straight after starting 6-0. A
week after a fourth-quarter collapse against Michigan, the Gophers
(6-2, 2-2) came out flat and trailed 17-0 before fighting back into
But their momentum died on Cobb's return.
Cobb's amazing run came with 37 seconds left in the first half
after Minnesota scored to pull to 24-17.
The junior cornerback took Rhys Lloyd's kick in the end zone,
ran up the middle and quickly accelerated out of the pack up the
right sideline, drawing a loud groan from the crowd.
"I don't think it was really deflating," Gophers safety Justin
Fraley said. "Our think is we're going to have to play 60
But Minnesota suffered another quick setback on the next
possession, when the Spartans' Ronald Stanley recovered a fumble by
Marion Barber III. Rayner's 50-yard field goal gave the Spartans a
34-17 halftime lead.
Rayner, who has made 11 consecutive field goals, added a 52-yard
kick with 1:47 left in the third to make it 37-17.
Minnesota still had a chance after Abdul-Khaliq, who threw for a
career-high 377 yards, hit Hosack for a 17-yard TD pass with 20
seconds left in the third quarter.
The Gophers tried to fuel the rally midway through the fourth
when they drove to the Spartans 17. But Michigan State, which held
the Gophers to 148 yards on the ground, stuffed Abdul-Khaliq on
consecutive plays and dropped Barber on a trick play on fourth
Minnesota, which racked up 424 yards against the Wolverines last
week, came into the game averaging 305 yards in conference play.
"We knew after the success we had last week that they were
going to gang up to stop the run," Gophers coach Glen Mason said.
Minnesota turned the ball over on the opening kickoff when Jared
Posthumus couldn't handle Rayner's short kick. Mark Goebel
recovered the ball and Michigan State took over at the Gophers 36.
Four plays later, Hayes had an 11-yard touchdown run and the
Spartans led 7-0 only 1:22 into the game.
"That's huge," Smoker said. "Especially when you're on the
road. You take the crowd out of it."
Hayes scored again on a 6-yard run on Michigan State's next
The Gophers got some momentum after Lloyd kicked a 23-yard field
goal to start the second.
The Spartans took a 24-10 lead on Smoker's 6-yard run on third
down with just under five minutes left in the half.
Minnesota pulled to 24-17 on Barber's 1-yard run on fourth down
with 48 seconds to go. The score was Barber's 15th of the season
and extended his school record.
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