Minnesota edges Michigan State 34-7 in Big Ten opener

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Tanner Morgan threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns and Mohamed Ibrahim rushed for 103 yards and a score to lead Minnesota to a 34-7 rout of struggling Michigan State in the Big Ten opener for both schools.

The Gophers (4-0) are off to their best start since starting the 2019 season 9-0. Minnesota outshot Michigan State (2-2) on both sides of the ball, outscoring the Spartans 508-240 on offense while also catching two interceptions and a fumble.

“I have to take my hat off to our players,” Minnesota coach PJ Fleck said. “They just played incredibly hard. I couldn’t be more proud of them right now.

Despite the absence of star receiver Chris Autman-Bell, who is out for the season with a leg injury last week, the Gophers offense has been dominant. Minnesota didn’t punt, converted 10 of 12 third attempts, had possession for 42:30, and Morgan hit 10 different receivers.

“I’ve been saying this for a long time now that we’ve got a lot of guys that can make plays for us,” Morgan said. “We saw that today – a lot of guys who were involved in the game plan and made plays. It makes my job really easy.

Michigan State looked set to rally from a 17-point deficit early in the second half heading for Minnesota’s 5-yard line, but Thomas Rush released the ball from quarterback Payton Thorne and Justin Walley recovered.

“Each week we focus on the numbers,” Walley said. “Today we had three. This is the amount we should get each week or strive to get each week.

The Spartans avoided the shutout when quarterback Noah Kim threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Germie Bernard with 17 seconds left.

The Gophers scored on their first three possessions to go up 17-0.

Ibrahim, who extended his 100+ rushing streak to 13 games, broke Minnesota’s all-time rushing touchdown record with a 2-yard rush after the first drive. It was his 41st score on the ground, breaking a tie with former Gophers running back Darrell Thompson.

Morgan, who completed 23 of 26 passes for 268 yards, capped the next drive when he hit Daniel Jackson with a 23-yard touchdown pass. Matthew Trickett followed with a 26-yard field goal.

Morgan added a 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Nick Kallerup in the third quarter and a 4-yard pass to Jackson early in the fourth quarter. Trickett closed the Gophers’ scoring with a 22-yard field goal.

“We were performing fantastically today,” Morgan said. “We were executing. We stopped a lot, though.

It was the second consecutive game where Michigan State was dominated. Last week against Washington, the Spartans gave up 503 yards.

“I’m really not happy with what I see,” Michigan State coach Mel Tucker said. “I don’t accept it.”

Tucker said he understands the issues with his team.

“I’m probably not going to talk about it now,” he said. “I don’t want to say anything I shouldn’t say right after a game like this.”

TAKE AWAY

Minnesota: The Gophers showed why they’re considered favorites to win the Western Division. Against their toughest opponent so far, Minnesota dominated in all phases of the game.

Michigan State: The Spartans pass defense for the second straight game struggled to cover. Morgan completed 12 passes in the first half for 10 or more yards.

CONSEQUENCES OF THE SURVEY

The Gophers will likely be ranked after being among the unranked teams with the most votes in the AP Top 25.

NEXT

Minnesota: Hosts Purdue on Oct. 1 in a key Big Ten West game, then has a week off.

Michigan State: Hits the road Oct. 1 to face Maryland and follows with a brutal three-game streak that includes Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan.

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