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Spartans top Gophers to complete unbeaten Big Ten season

Nov 30, 2013 - 9:48 PM East Lansing, MI ( - Jeremy Langford ran for a touchdown and Connor Cook threw for a score, as 11th-ranked Michigan State completed an undefeated Big Ten regular season with a 14-3 victory over Minnesota at Spartan Stadium.

The Spartans did just enough offensively, scoring on their first possession of the game and their initial series of the second half, in a tune-up for next week's Big Ten championship game against Ohio State.

Michigan State (11-1, 8-0 Big Ten) won its final eight games for its third unbeaten Big Ten regular season and first since accomplishing the feat in 1965 and 1966. The Spartans' lone loss came Sept. 21 in a 17-13 loss at Notre Dame.

Langford finished with 134 yards on 21 carries in the victory, while Cook completed just 10-of-20 passes for 143 yards.

"Our guys are confident," said Cook. "You can see the confidence in practice and in the game, even when things aren't really going our way. They know they're playmakers, their coaches know they're playmakers, and we know they're playmakers. Confidence is never an issue.

"It's a great feeling (to get the win). First and foremost, I'm so happy for the seniors. They've worked so hard. They've put in so much work for our programs. They've made so many sacrifices, so I'm just happy that the work I put in helped contribute to putting our team on top for the seniors."

Minnesota (8-4, 4-4) completed a successful regular season despite back-to- back losses after winning four in a row. The Gophers hadn't won as many as eight games in a season since the 2003 squad finished 10-3.

Philip Nelson threw for just 77 yards with a pair of interceptions on 6-of-18 passing in defeat. David Cobb ran for 101 yards on 27 carries for the Gophers.

The Spartans took their first possession 80 yards for a touchdown. Cook completed each of his three passes for 48 yards and Langford did the rest with four carries for 32, the last 15 for the score.

Trae Waynes then picked off Nelson on the next series, but an intentional grounding penalty against Cook at the Minnesota 38 derailed the drive and forced a punt. The Spartans again drove into Minnesota territory early in the second quarter, but Langford was stopped short of a first down on 4th-and-1 at the 29.

Minnesota finally put together a sustained march a few minutes later and did so with the aid of a fake punt. Maxx Williams ran for seven yards on 4th-and-2 at the Michigan State 40 and the Gophers reached the one before a third-down pass was deflected and fell incomplete, setting up Chris Hawthorne's 21-yard field goal.

Waynes came up with his second interception in the final minute of the half and a 24-yard pass gave Michigan State a chance to tack on some points with a first down at the Minnesota 31. Cook, though, was picked off by Derrick Wells to keep it a 7-3 game at the intermission.

The Spartans took the second half kickoff and drove 75 yards on eight plays for another touchdown. Cook finished it with a 12-yard strike to Josiah Price for a 14-3 lead.

Minnesota countered with a march to the Michigan State 11, but went backward from there and Hawthorne missed a 38-yard field goal try.

Michigan State had a chance to extend the lead late in the third after a 35- yard run by Aaron Burbridge set up a first down at the Minnesota 19, but Cook was sacked and fumbled two plays later.

The Gophers mounted one last threat early in the fourth, taking more than nine minutes off the clock with a drive from their own nine to the Michigan State 11, but Shilique Calhoun forced a fumble and Denzel Drone recovered for the Spartans with less than five minutes remaining.

"We just didn't finish drives, and that happens sometimes," said Minnesota coach Jerry Kill. "And field position was critical on some of those. But the effort was certainly there, and we just needed to make a few more plays."

Game Notes

The Spartans went unbeaten at home for the third time in the last four seasons ... Michigan State was 0-for-8 on third down ... Minnesota controlled the ball for nearly 39 minutes ... Michigan State has now won four straight against Minnesota and leads the all-time series, 29-17.