1. The Gophers will find a way to run the ball
Three of the Gophers' top four running backs were out because of injuries and the fourth lost a fumble on his first carry Saturday. So what does coach P.J. Fleck do? He puts the ball in the hands of Jordan Nubin, his fifth option. Forty carries later, the defensive back turned running back had 204 yards, including a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns that enabled the Gophers to pull away for a 27-12 win over the Spartans. When Darius Taylor and Zach Evans return from injuries, Fleck will have three productive backs from which to choose. And in case he needs more depth, he's moved freshman linebacker Zander Rockow and defensive back Za'Quan Bryan to running back.
2. Props to the offensive line
Nubin's breakout game wouldn't have been possible without the Gophers offensive line, which wore down the Michigan State defense in the second half. With starting right guard Tyler Cooper out because of an injury, true freshman Greg Johnson started. Tackles Aireontae Ersery and Quinn Carroll had strong games, earning ratings of 79.3 and 78.3, respectively, from Pro Football Focus. Most telling: Until Athan Kaliakmanis' final two kneel-downs to end the game, the Gophers ran the ball 19 consecutive times for 132 yards, including Nubin's two TDs.
3. Bounce-back games for Spann-Ford, Crooms
Gophers tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford and wide receiver Corey Crooms Jr. combined for no receptions and three dropped passes at Iowa last week. On Saturday, both were factors for the Gophers. Spann-Ford caught two passes for 43 yards, gaining 38 yards after catch. Crooms caught two passes for 42 yards, including a 30-yard reception that helped set up the Gophers' first touchdown late in the second quarter.
4. Defense creates turnovers again
A week after grabbing two fumbles and an interception in the 12-10 win at Iowa, the Gophers had two takeaways against Michigan State. Both came in the fourth quarter. Jah Joyner sacked Spartans quarterback Sam Leavitt for a 4-yard loss, forcing and recovering a fumble. That led to Dragan Kesich's 31-yard field goal that made the score 27-12. Tre'Von Jones followed with an interception of a Leavitt pass with 1:25 left in the game.
5. Up next: Illinois
The Gophers will try to stretch their win streak to three games on Saturday (2:30 p.m., BTN) in a home game against Illinois. The Fighting Illini (3-5, 1-4) had a bye this weekend after falling 25-21 to Wisconsin on Oct. 21. Illinois will be without its best defensive player, lineman Jer'Zhan Newton, for the first half. Newton was suspended for a targeting infraction that occurred in the second half against Wisconsin.