Minnesota looks to avoid letdown vs. Michigan State

Field Level Media

October 24, 2023 at 7:31 pm.

Minnesota remained in the race for the Big Ten West Division title with a controversial victory at then-No. 24 Iowa last Saturday.

The Golden Gophers can pad their win total against foundering Michigan State in Minneapolis this Saturday.

The Gophers scratched out a 12-10 win over the Hawkeyes after an apparent Iowa punt-return touchdown in the late going was disallowed. Upon review, the officials ruled the returner made an invalid fair-catch signal.

Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said there shouldn’t have been any controversy regarding the call.

“Offsides is offsides. A false start is a false start. A hold is a hold. And an invalid fair-catch signal is an invalid fair-catch signal,” he said.

Minnesota (4-3, 2-2) didn’t score an offensive touchdown; Dragan Kesich provided all the points with four field goals.

Star freshman running back Darius Taylor returned from a one-game absence due to injury and was held to 59 yards on 16 carries. Taylor gained 529 yards and scored four touchdowns in his three previous outings.

A stout defense held Iowa to 127 yards and forced three turnovers.

“You’re watching growth. And that’s what I want to see from the team,” Fleck said.

The Spartans (2-5, 0-4) have lost five straight games, coinciding with the suspension and subsequent firing of head coach Mel Tucker for alleged sexual harassment.

Michigan State was pounded by No. 2 Michigan 49-0 in a rivalry game last Saturday.

“We watched the film,” interim head coach Harlon Barnett said. “It wasn’t very nice.”

In his second start, quarterback Katin Houser was limited to 101 passing yards and tossed an interception. Barnett said he’ll stick with Houser.

To make matters worse, three-year starting defensive tackle Simeon Barrow is expected to enter the transfer portal.

“We’ll use what we have at our disposal,” Barnett said. “They’ll go in there and grind and fight and do whatever they need to do to help us succeed.”

The Golden Gophers won 34-7 on the Spartans’ home field last season.