Michigan State’s football team faced yet another disappointing defeat, marking their sixth consecutive loss, with an underwhelming performance on offense.
In the previous week, they were handed a demoralizing 49-0 defeat by Michigan, and this time, their offense managed only a pair of field goals in the first three quarters during a 27-12 loss to Minnesota.
The Spartans, with a record of 2-6 and 0-5 in the Big Ten, are facing a challenging season. The true freshman quarterback, Sam Leavitt, replaced the starter, Katin Houser, in the fourth quarter and did provide a spark but also committed a pair of turnovers.
Interim coach Harlon Barnett’s record fell to 0-6, making their situation increasingly precarious. To become eligible for a bowl game, Michigan State must win all four remaining games, with two matchups against top-10 teams.
Michigan State missed early opportunities to take the lead, as Minnesota committed fumbles deep in their territory during their first two possessions, forcing the Spartans to settle for field goals.
This pattern continued until Leavitt led a late touchdown drive, which was too little, too late. Katin Houser, making his third career start, struggled for the second consecutive week before being replaced by Leavitt.
Houser, a redshirt freshman, finished with 12 completions on 22 attempts for 117 yards. In contrast, Leavitt completed 8 out of 12 passes for 73 yards, one touchdown, and an interception. Leavitt also led the team in rushing with 52 yards on six carries but had a fumble. The starting running back, Nathan Carter, was limited to 44 yards on 11 carries.
Although Minnesota was missing their leading rusher, Darius Taylor, they still had a dominant ground game. Jordan Nubin had a career-high performance with 204 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries.
Athan Kaliakmanis completed 14 out of 22 passes for 200 yards, one touchdown, and an interception. Daniel Jackson proved to be a constant challenge for the Michigan State defense, with seven catches for 120 yards and a touchdown.
The game began with a fumble by Minnesota’s running back, Sean Tyler, on only the second snap. Although Michigan State had excellent field position early, they could not capitalize fully and had to settle for a 38-yard field goal by Jonathan Kim.
The Golden Gophers fumbled again on their second possession, this time due to a strip sack by Jordan Hall on Kaliakmanis. However, the Spartans failed to convert on this opportunity as well, resulting in another field goal by Kim, this time from 42 yards, for a 6-0 lead.
Minnesota put together a 13-play, 75-yard drive but couldn’t find the end zone, with Dragan Kesich’s 35-yard field goal attempt blocked. The Golden Gophers settled for a 25-yard field goal by Kesich, cutting the deficit to 6-3.
After several punts, Houser connected with Montorie Foster for a 34-yard gain, but Michigan State couldn’t advance any further. Minnesota responded with an eight-play, 94-yard drive, concluding with a 22-yard touchdown pass from Kaliakmanis to Jackson, giving them a 10-6 lead just before halftime.
In the second half, the Spartans showed signs of life offensively with their longest drive of the game. However, a holding penalty pushed them back, and Kim missed a 53-yard field goal attempt, keeping the deficit at four points.
Kaliakmanis was intercepted by Jaden Manghan but redeemed himself by leading a touchdown drive on the following possession. Nubin scored on an 18-yard run, extending Minnesota’s lead to 17-6 early in the fourth quarter.
This prompted Barnett to replace Houser with Leavitt, who injected energy into the offense. Leavitt led an eight-play, 75-yard drive, completing all four passes and rushing for 34 yards.
His first career touchdown pass was a 9-yard throw to Tyrell Henry, but the 2-point conversion failed, leaving the score at 17-12 with 8:37 remaining in the game. This touchdown broke a streak of eight consecutive quarters without a touchdown for the Spartans.
Michigan State attempted an onside kick, but Minnesota recovered it and capitalized on the short field. Nubin continued to be a workhorse, scoring a 2-yard touchdown for a 24-12 lead with 4:11 left in the game.
Two plays later, Leavitt fumbled, and Minnesota recovered, leading to a 31-yard field goal by Kesich to conclude the scoring.