East Lansing – Boos filled Spartan Stadium in the first half on Saturday.
By the second half, it was mostly silent, a stunned crowd with little left to get worked up about.
The home audience that, at its peak, filled the stadium to the tune of 74,587, had mostly filed out by the time the game, mercifully, had come to an end.
By then, Minnesota had polished off Michigan State, 34-7, dominating the Spartans, who for the second straight week watched as their defense got run over and their offense was stuck in the mud.
BOX SCORE: Minnesota 34, Michigan State 7
“Not good at all,” said quarterback Payton Thorne, who threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. “After a game like this, there’s not really much to say. It feels terrible. It’s really not a good feeling.”
How could it be?
After all, Michigan State got smacked in the mouth last week at Washington but returned home determined to turn things around, unhappy with their execution on both sides of the ball.
But if it’s possible, things got even worse on Saturday.
The Golden Gophers (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) jumped on the Spartans from the opening snap, piling up 508 yards, including 240 on the ground while quarterback Tanner Morgan was outstanding, going 23-for-26 for 268 yards and three touchdowns, picking up critical first downs with his feet in the first half.
The Gophers never punted while going 10-for-12 on third down, possessing the ball for 42:13. Running back Mohamed Ibrahim carried 22 times for 103 yards and added a touchdown as the Gophers were the epitome of balance, taking advantage of a Michigan State defense that was lost, once again. The Gophers had nine passing plays of 15 or more yards while adding 10 runs for 10 or more yards.
It was a game plan that had Michigan State (2-2, 0-1) on its heels.
“We expected them to run, they came out with another game plan,” linebacker Jacoby Windmon said. “But we’ve got to execute whatever they do.”
There was little of that, however, on either side of the ball.
While Michigan State’s defense was getting beat up, the offense, again, started slowly, running just six plays and gaining 1 yard in the first quarter, digging a big hole. This week, unlike last, things never got going as Michigan State ran for only 38 yards, avoiding a shutout in mop-up time as Noah Kim hit Germie Bernard for a 27-yard touchdown.
“We were not good enough on either side of the ball,” Michigan State coach Mel Tucker said. “We have to get stops on defense. We were terrible on third down defense. You give these teams a third-and-long, you have to get off the field. You cannot stay out there, and you have to get the ball to the offense. We also have to play tighter coverage.
“Offensively, we need to get the ball and do something with it. I’m really not happy with what I’m seeing. I don’t accept it.”
Michigan State (2-2, 0-1) had only 45 total yards in the first half and ended with 240. The running game, once again, went nowhere and even with Jayden Reed back from injury, the passing attack fell flat.
“We can’t be so casual,” wide receiver Tre Mosley said. “I think that’s what we came up against today. We were just too casual on offense, defense and special teams and didn’t get the job done.
“It wasn’t necessarily not caring enough, but not going out there and taking what we wanted, thinking the game was going to come to us. You’ve got to go out there and take what you want.”
It was clear from the outset that it was Minnesota that was doing the taking, dominating the first half, outgaining the Spartans, 302-45, while picking up 19 first downs to just three for Michigan State.
And while the Gophers have one of the best running attacks in the nation, they were smart enough to take advantage of the Spartans’ brutal pass defense as Morgan was 17-for-20 for 207 yards and a touchdown in the first half. After Ibrahim opened the scoring with a 2-yard run on the first possession of the game, Morgan hit Daniel Jackson with a 23-yard touchdown pass, giving the Gophers a 14-0 lead with just less than three minutes to play in the first. quarter.
After Michigan State’s second straight three-and-out to start the game — the Spartans ran only six plays in the first half for the second straight game — Minnesota went 66 yards on 12 plays and got a 26-yard field goal from Matthew Trickett to take a 17-0 lead.
The Spartans, meanwhile, mustered a little, finally getting a first down on their next possession, but that drive ended when Thorne was intercepted on fourth down. Later, Michigan State forced a fumble but failed to capitalize, punting after five plays.
“I’m not blindsided,” Tucker said. “We knew what the game plan was. Their plan was to run the ball and control the clock and time of possession. That’s what they do. We knew how to stop that. I’m not going to go on and on about a lack of execution. There’s really nothing that happens out there that blindsides me, just because I’ve seen too much football.
“But I’m never really shocked. I may be disappointed, I may be angry, I may be frustrated at times, which I do because I’m competitive and we weren’t winning. I’m rarely shocked by something that happens on a football field.”
Michigan State showed some life to open the second half with one of its best drives. But it all came apart when Thorne fumbled at the Minnesota 5 and the Gophers took over. They responded with a 12-play, 90-yard drive that ended with a TD pass from Morgan to Nick Kallerup to take a 24-0 lead with 3:26 left in the third quarter.
Thorne then threw his second interception and Minnesota added a score, a 4-yard pass from Morgan to Jackson to extend the lead to 31-0 early in the fourth quarter. The Gophers added a Trickett field goal with 1:48 to play to cap the scoring.
“We feel like we let you guys down,” Mosley said. “We never want to come out at home and lose, especially a blowout. That’s very disappointing and I know that the fans feel the same way.”