Spartans find Minnesota to be what doctor ordered
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- This was exactly what Michigan State needed after last weekend's blowout loss: an early lead, a revitalized running game and an easy victory against an overmatched opponent.
Edwin Baker ran for 179 yards and four touchdowns, and the 16th-ranked Spartans bounced back from their first defeat of the season with a 31-8 win over Minnesota on Saturday.
"We needed someone to give us a push to get this one, and I wasn't the only one," Baker said. "We just went back to basics. We haven't run the ball well in four games, and we worked hard on running it in practice."
Baker scored twice on fourth down near the goal line to help the Spartans (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten) take a 21-0 halftime lead. Minnesota (1-9, 0-6) never threatened after that en route to its ninth straight loss.
Michigan State won its first eight games before being blown out 37-6 by Iowa last weekend. Baker turned things around this week with scoring runs of 30, 1 and 1 yard in the first half, and another 1-yarder in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw three interceptions in the Iowa loss, but didn't have to do much against the Golden Gophers.
He went 9 of 20 for 131 yards with an interception, and his record-tying streak of 16 games with a touchdown pass came to an end. He shares that school record with Drew Stanton.
Cousins' deep pass over the middle was nearly intercepted early in the first quarter, but immediately after that, Baker scored his 30-yard touchdown.
"We got back to what we like to do best," Cousins said. "I think that first drive, we were able to just run it down the field. ... We hadn't been starting fast."
Michigan State had been outscored 30-0 in the first quarter in its previous four games, and the Spartans hadn't enjoyed a comfortable early lead in a while. Two weeks ago, they trailed Northwestern 17-0 before rallying to win, then they allowed the first 37 points to Iowa.