Sometimes big wins in rivalry games have a funny way of catching a team off guard the next weekend. Largely that didn’t happen for the Michigan State Spartans in a 30-27 win over the Minnesota Gophers.
Yes, Minnesota made a feverish comeback and the narrative may have been a bit different had it went the other way. But, it didn’t happen and for all the talk of MSU’s offensive ineptitude, it was Michigan State’s offense that came through on Saturday night in a rain-soaked TCF Bank Stadium.
After struggling to find any offensive cohesiveness, the Spartans were able to pound the Gophers in awful weather conditions. Consider it goal achieved, as apparently this group wrote a goal of 200 yards on the ground at the team hotel before heading off to the stadium.
“We dictated that it would come,” Dantonio said of the team’s rushing performance, via MLive.com. “We basically insisted upon it.”
As the final moments ticked away and a narrow three-point win was earned, MSU had done it largely thanks to its run game. That unit racked up an impressive 268 yards as a group.
Heading in to the game, MSU’s run game was in a massive rut with quarterback Brian Lewerke leading the team with 301 yards. LJ Scott was a distant second with just 214 yards on the season. He nearly doubled his season total in one night.
Scott finally broke loose at The Bank, rushing for a career-best 194 of the 266 yards MSU put up. It was the highest single-game total since Le’Veon Bell went for 266 yards against Minnesota back in 2012.
Madre London added 74 yards on 12 carries himself, and the once-thought of key to Michigan State’s success in 2017 actually showed up for once.
How did a once-dormant Spartans run game burst on to the scene? According to head coach Mark Dantonio it was as simple as finding a play that worked and sticking with it. Minnesota couldn’t stop a power sweep play to save their lives early on and MSU went to the well about 15 times on that play alone.
“It was a way to get the ball on the perimeter and we’re always searching for ways to get the ball on the perimeter and crease people so that they have to play all facets of our offense,” Dantonio said, via MLive.com.
There is still plenty of football to be played in the 2017 season, but with Ohio State and Penn State still on the schedule, Michigan State still controls its own destiny. With a running back finally holding the title of leading rusher on this team, could the Spartans be finding their way just in time for a second half push to a surprising East division title?
Of course, getting there will mean replicating what took place offensively against some of the stingiest run defenses in the Big Ten. Let’s see if the confidence gained against Minnesota can pay off the rest of the way.