It finally happened. After 11 weeks of bad breaks and woulda-coulda-shoulda’s, the Spartans put forth a complete effort in a Big Ten game and will be heading to a bowl game as a result.
CB Johnny Adams recorded two interceptions in his final Big Ten game
Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell rushed for a career-high 266 yards, the defense forced four turnovers and the Spartans scored a 26-10 win Saturday afternoon at Minnesota.
The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Arizona is the likely reward, alongside 15 extra bowl practices the Spartans desperately needed following a 6-6 season (3-5 Big Ten). Coach Mark Dantonio spoke prophetically about the bounces not going the Spartans’ way this season during his weekly press conference Tuesday, while all the bounces favored MSU Saturday in Minneapolis.
MSU’s first touchdown of the afternoon came on a pass intended for Tony Lippett, while the ball bounced off his hands into Bennie Fowler’s for a 41-yard touchdown score from Andrew Maxwell. Kicker Dan Conroy’s third field goal of the afternoon, a 43-yarder to put the Spartans ahead 16-7, bounced off the uprights and in. Later in the quarter with MSU up nine, Bell fumbled deep in MSU territory. The ball bounced directly into the hands of freshman wideout Aaron Burbridge as the Spartans retained possession.
MSU’s defense did not allow a touchdown for the fourth time this season, as the Gophers’ lone score came on a Maxwell pick-six. Maxwell completed 13 of 29 attempts for 141 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Max Bullough led the Spartans with seven tackles as the defense yielded just 96 offensive yards. Maligned senior cornerback Johnny Adams recorded two interceptions, while redshirt freshman cornerback R.J. Williamson and junior cornerback Darqueze Dennard each added one.
Bell averaged 7.6 yards per carry on his career day behind a superb run-blocking effort from the offensive line. He punched in his lone score of the day with 6:30 remaining in the game to put MSU ahead 26-10 and secure the victory.
Even the special teams, a huge disappointment for most of the year, showed up and played a large role in the victory. Conroy was 4 of 5 on field goal attempts and redshirt freshman Andre Sims Jr. recorded a 44-yard punt return in the second half, by far his best of the season.
Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson completed 10 of 23 attempts for just 61 yards and running back Donnell Kirkwood managed 19 yards on 10 carries.
Fowler led all Spartan receivers with seven catches for 101 yards.