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No. 15 Michigan State tops Minnesota

Nov 5, 2011 - 10:22 PM East Lansing, MI (Sports Network) - Le'Veon Bell rushed for 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including the deciding score early in the fourth quarter, as No. 15 Michigan State got past Minnesota, 31-24, at Spartan Stadium.

"It was a great football game, obviously," said MSU head coach Mark Dantonio. "We talked about emotion all week long, that Minnesota would come with emotion. We were going to have to match that. I thought they got off to a fast start, obviously. But we kept playing. We countered with great emotion in the second half. We survived one playoff win as far as I'm concerned."

Kirk Cousins passed for 296 yards and a pair of scores on 23-of-34 efficiency for the Spartans (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten), who have won three of four since their bye week and travel to Iowa next Saturday.

B.J. Cunningham posted 104 yards on three grabs, while Keith Nichol and Todd Anderson registered a TD reception for the victors.

MarQueis Gray threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns -- all to DaJon McKnight -- with two interceptions including a costly late pick for the Gophers (2-7, 1-4), who have dropped five of their last six.

Gray added 71 yards on 21 carries, with McKnight racking up 173 yards on nine receptions.

Dan Conroy's 40-yard make on the first play of the fourth quarter pulled Michigan State even at 24-all, and the Spartans defense held the visitors to a three-and-out.

Keshawn Martin returned the kick 11 yards to the MSU 42, and a 58-yard drive ended with a 35-yard dash to paydirt by Bell, which put the home team up by one score with just under 11 minutes to play.

Minnesota was forced to punt on its next possession, then turned the ball over on downs after Gray's attempt to John Rabe fell incomplete on 4th-and-10 from near midfield.

The last Gophers drive reached the MSU 45-yard line with 14 seconds left, but Gray was picked off by Trenton Robinson on first down to ice the game.

"I don't think a pep talk before a game is going to make the difference once the ball is kicked. I think our kids are plenty motivated and play hard, they just made a few more plays that we did and beat us in the field position game," said Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill. "We were starting drives on the 10-yard line and they were starting on the 40, so it's hard to win games when it's that different."

Gray hit McKnight for a 64-yard score on Minnesota's initial possession, but the home squad equalized on the ensuing series when Nichol brought in a four- yard pass from Cousins.

Edwin Baker then coughed up the football and Keanon Cooper recovered at the MSU 26. Just two plays later, on a 1st-and-10 from the 13, McKnight made a leaping grab in the back left corner of the end zone for a 14-7 Gophers edge.

Bell's one-yard TD run evened the score on the initial play of the second quarter, but a 27-yard make from Jordan Wettstein put the visitors ahead 17-14 with just over a minute left in the half.

But Cousins found Anderson for a two-yard connection and the Spartans led 21-17 at the break.

McKnight notched his third score of the contest on a 15-yard reception early in the third which put Minnesota on top 24-21.

Game Notes

Michigan State leads the all-time series by a 27-17 count, though Minnesota has won three of the last five matchups...The Gophers posted a slight edge in total yardage, 415-402, and picked up 22 first downs to 19 for the Spartans...Minnesota also converted 7-of-15 third-down situations in defeat.