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News, Notes, Tid-Bits and Quotes from Gophers 26-10 Loss to Michigan State

11/24/2012, 7:45pm CST
By U of M Athletic Communications

Postgame Notes
Michigan State [6-6, 3-5] 26, Minnesota [6-6, 2-6] 10
November 24, 2012   |   TCF Bank Stadium  |   Minneapolis, Minn.   |   Att. 44,194

 
SERIES NOTES

  • Today’s game was the 45th all-time meeting with Michigan State, and the Spartans now hold a 28-17 lead in the series.
  • Minnesota has won six of the past 11 games between the schools, and four of the past six in Minneapolis, but the Spartans have won the past three meetings overall.
  • The Gophers are 11-13 all-time against MSU at home, and have lost just twice to the Spartans in Minneapolis since 1998. Prior to today’s win, MSU’s last road win versus the Gophers during that time was a 44-38 win on Oct. 18, 2003.


 
TEAM NOTES

  • Minnesota fell to 12-16 in games played at TCF Bank Stadium, and is 11-10 there since the start of 2010.
  • The Gophers dropped to 4-3 at home this season.
  • Kill’s career record in home games fell to 82-32 (.719).
  • The Gophers lost a regular season finale for the first time since 2009. Minnesota defeated Iowa, 27-24, to close the 2010 season, and posted a 27-7 win versus Illinois to wrap up the 2011 regular season.
  • Minnesota had won its final home game at TCF Bank Stadium in each of the first three seasons at the facility before suffering today's loss.
  • Minnesota’s seniors chose to wear Gold pants and Gold jerseys for the first time this season. The Gophers wore a total of four different uniform combinations for home games this year, going 2-1 with Maroon pants and jerseys, 1-0 with Gold jersey and Maroon pants, and 1-1 in Maroon jerseys and Gold pants.
  • The Gophers led 7-6 at the end of the first quarter. Minnesota held leads at the end of the opening quarter five times this season, going 4-1 in those games.
  • Offensively, the Gophers were limited to 96 yards of total offense and seven first downs. It’s the first time they’ve had less than 10 first downs since having nine versus Wisconsin on Nov. 12, 2011.
  • Minnesota was also held without an offensive touchdown for the first time this season.
 

INDIVIDUAL NOTES (OFFENSE)

  • Senior MarQueis Gray started the game at QB on Senior Day. He was 0-of-1 passing and ran the ball five times for four yards. Gray also played wide receiver, but didn’t catch a pass.
  • Freshman quarterback Philip Nelson was 10-of-23 for 61 yards and three interceptions.
  • Sophomore QB Max Shortell also played, completing 3-of-6 passes for 31 yards with an interception.
  • Freshman wide receiver Andre McDonald caught three passes for a career-high 36 yards to lead the Gophers.
  • Junior wide receiver Derrick Engel caught a career-best three passes totaling 35 yards.


 INDIVIDUAL NOTES (DEFENSE)

  • Junior linebacker Aaron Hill intercepted his second pass attempt of the season (also second career) and returned it 33 yards for his first career touchdown. It was
  • Senior defensive end D.L. Wilhite recorded a sack, giving him a team-leading total of 8.5 sacks during the regular season. Wilhite’s total ranks seventh on Minnesota’s all-time single-season list, and is the most in a season since Willie VanDeSteeg recorded 10.5 sacks during 2008.
  • Freshman safety Derrick Wells recorded a career-high 12 tackles, and also tied his career-highs with seven solo tackles and one tackle for loss.
  • Senior linebacker Keanon Cooper tied his career-high by registering 2.5 tackles for loss to go along with eight tackles (six solo). Cooper’s solo tackles mark also tied his career-best.


 
INDIVIDUAL NOTES (SPECIAL TEAMS)

  • Senior Jordan Wettstein kicked a season-best 48-yard field goal in the third quarter. Wettstein’s career-long field goal of 51 yards came during last year’s season finale versus Illinois on Nov. 26.
  • Sophomore punter Christian Eldred punted six times for a 44.3 yard average, with a long punt of 52 yards. He pinned the Spartans inside their own 20 three times.

Minnesota defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys

On head coach Jerry Kill’s status…
“He’s doing alright. He’s still here, he’s resting and he’ll be fine. It is what it is, but it isn’t anything major, he’s fine.”

On the play of Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell…
“Our kids battled hard, and he’s a good back. We stuck in there for most of the game. I’m really proud of the way we played defense. We could have finished a couple more plays, but overall I thought we battled hard on the defensive side of the ball. We continue to struggle on offense with the injuries and figuring out what we do best. We are all disappointed mainly because the seniors have to end the last home game with a loss, but we have one more game to make that right since we get to play in a bowl game. That will give us a chance to get healthy and work on some things.”

On getting the opportunity for more practice before the bowl game…
“They will get a little time next week to make sure we get caught up academically. Then, from there, you get 15 practices. I don’t know how everybody else does it, but we like to practice the older kids for about an hour and then we keep the younger kids out where they are running our offense and our defense and not just the opponents’. It’s really big as far as the advancement of your players. With our injuries that we have on our side of the ball, we’ll have a chance to get healthy. Then you get to prepare for one ball game. The bowl experience is a great experience, but we can’t be satisfied with just getting to go to a bowl. We need to take a week and get our thoughts together, and then we have to go win that thing and get the tide turned here to finish the year.”

Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson

On the pressure he faced…
“We knew that they have a great D-Line and that they would push the pocket. As a quarterback, you have to be able to make plays on the run and figure things out.”

On whether the game plan was to come out passing…
“We knew that they were going to be jumping on runs, so we tried to get some play action going, some token fakes. They were still able to get in and stop the run, though, and we tried to gameplan around it.”

On what he credits the interceptions to…
“I know there was one where I thought that our wide receiver would be able to get off the coverage and I tried to squeeze it in where it was way too tight, the ball shouldn’t have gone there. On the other ones, I was just trying to give our guys a shot throwing it up, that’s what we try to do, we just couldn’t get on the same page. There cornerbacks did a great job of disrupting us and throwing off our timing.”

Minnesota defensive lineman D.L. Wilhite

On the play of Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell
“He was a heck of a player. Sometimes we struggled to get him down. At the end of the day, we have to wrap up better going forward. I think he is definitely one of the best backs we saw all year. The stats show that he had a great game with 270 yards. I can’t take anything away from him. At the end of the day, they challenged us to stop him and we couldn’t get that done, he’s a great player.”

On head coach Jerry Kill not being on the sideline during the 2nd half…
“I didn’t even think about it, because when things hit you, you have to keep on moving forward. We had a game to play and that’s how our guys saw it, myself included. Whether coach Kill is out there or not, our jobs don’t change, the calls don’t change and the team we are playing doesn’t change. We tried to attack it like nothing even happened. I don’t think too many guys had that on their mind. We were probably concerned, wanting coach Kill to be healthy, we had that on our mind, but I don’t think too many people were focusing on him not being out there. We were just focusing on moving on with the rest of the game.”

Minnesota cornerback Michael Carter

On if the team was worried about coach Kill during the game…
“We all love coach kill. I love coach Kill and he has love for me. Of course, we worry, but at the same time we know what he wants and he wants a win.”

On if he is disappointed with the performance today…
“We just went out there and fought hard, gave it our all. I feel like we left it all out there on the field and there is always room to get better. We just have to get back into the chalkboard room and get better.”

Michigan State Head Coach Mark Dantonio

On the game…
“I thought our guys came and played. We had a lot of resolve when we came to this football game today. I just felt that as we got to Minneapolis last night, and then really throughout the day. We played through the tough times in the game.”

“I thought, obviously, Le’Veon Bell played very well. We ran the football very, very efficiently, probably the best we have all season. So credit Le’Veon and the offensive line there.”

On his statement earlier this week when he said the Spartans would win…
“I think it was important that whatever we said, it was positive throughout the entire week, that we took a positive tone in terms of what we were going to do, and that we were going to be proactive and just speak very positively. I felt like if we came to play, we’d win the football game. As you can see, nothing’s easy. Nevertheless, we got through it.”

On the tipped pass that Bennie Fowler caught for a touchdown…
“I had a flashback, because that’s one of the things that happened in ’09 up here was a tipped pass for a touchdown. You make your own breaks. I thought that Bennie having the awareness and the alertness to be able to handle that. That’s part of it. That’s part of his ability.”

On the offensive line’s play…
“I thought the game plan to run the football against what they did was very effective. I thought our offensive line played very effectively. It’s good to see. When you look and you see some of the statistics, you wonder why the game isn’t a little bit more lopsided. But you’ve got to score touchdowns in the red zone. We’ve kicked a lot of field goals this year, and those are things that we’ve got to work on as we go into bowl season.”

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