FINAL: Michigan State outclassed by Minnesota at home


Michigan State defenders try to stop a run during the Spartans’ 34-7 loss to the Golden Gophers on September 24, 2022. Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Liam Jackson, Sports Editor

EAST LANSING, Mich. – The 2022 season was not supposed to begin this way for the Spartans. Michigan State entered the year as a top-25 team in the nation with aspirations of a double-digit win season and even a Big Ten championship.

After three weeks, however, MSU had dropped out of the AP top-25 and deficiencies in the secondary had not been fixed. Minnesota visited the Spartans on Saturday evening. Michigan State entered the game with its backs against the wall.

Minnesota smelled blood in the water. The Gophers dominated from start to finish on the way to a 34-7 victory. 

Head coach Mel Tucker was hesitant to jump to any massive conclusions after the game.

“I do understand what our issues are,” Tucker said. “I am probably just not going to talk about them right now. I don’t want to say anything that I probably shouldn’t say after a game like this.”

Despite Chris Autmen-Bell, the Gophers leading receiver, being unavailable due to injury, quarterback Tanner Morgan surpassed his season-high in completion attempts of 18 in the first half. He was 17 for 20 with 207 passing yards before halftime. 

Minnesota scored on its first two possessions while Michigan State failed to get a first down in the first quarter of play. Boos were aplenty from the home crowd throughout the game and especially in the first half. There may have been more boos in the second half if not for the mass exodus of fans after halftime.

The Michigan State defensive backfield has provided little to no resistance to opposing quarterbacks. Morgan was surgical in picking apart the defense. He finished 23 for 26 with 268 passing yards and three touchdowns. Morgan’s completion percentage was 88%. Yes, 88%.

On the other side, MSU was completely stifled all game. The Gophers outgained the Spartans by nearly 300 yards. The running game has been completely nonexistent the last two games after an impressive start to the season. 

Quarterback Payton Thorne seemed to turn a corner last week at Washington. He completed a career-high 30 passes and had three touchdowns. Saturday was not as kind to Thorne. He finished 17 for 24 with 132 yards, two interceptions and no touchdowns.

“We have to come together and move forward,” said Thorne. “Good teams come together and move forward when times are tough.”

Michigan State showed a little life during its first drive in the second half. Thorne even re-directed Daniel Barker’s route and threw him open while he was rolling out. MSU was in scoring position for the first time all game with a chance to cut the Gopher lead to ten. Thorne kept the ball on an option and was stripped at the five. Minnesota recovered, and any momentum the Spartans had was gone for good.

Spartan Stadium has been a place of solace for the Spartans of late. MSU was undefeated last season at home and 2-0 this year. This was not the only streak broken on Saturday. Minnesota had not beaten Michigan State in its last five meetings dating back over a decade.

Now at 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the Big Ten, MSU will have to adjust its goals for the season. Big Ten play has begun and the schedule does not get any easier as October approaches. The Spartans travel to Maryland next week and the Terrapins nearly upset No. 4 Michigan on Saturday.  

“If you feel like you are beaten then what does that mean? How are you going to respond to that,” Tucker said.