MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jordan Nubin filled in nicely for Minnesota with 204 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and the Gophers beat Michigan State 27-12 Saturday.
Athan Kaliakmanis threw for 200 yards and a touchdown, and Daniel Jackson added seven catches for a career-high 120 yards and a score for the Gophers (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten), who scored 17 points in the final quarter and have won three of four.
Michigan State (2-6, 0-5) has lost six in a row since the firing of Mel Tucker. The Spartans are averaging 11.3 points per game in that streak.
A 9-yard strike from Sam Leavitt to Tyrell Henry midway through the fourth quarter to get the Spartans within five points was the first Michigan State touchdown in nine quarters.
The Spartans had 299 yards of offense, with all but 80 in the second half. Minnesota had 400 yards.
A redshirt sophomore, Nubin was given his first significant opportunity because Minnesota was without its top two running backs. Darius Taylor and Zach Evans each left last week’s game at Iowa with undisclosed injuries.
“He ’s a fifth, sixth tailback. He was a safety last year and runs for 204 yards,” said Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck. “We all had to pick it up and he did too. That was really an amazing performance from him.”
“It was definitely a big transition, a lot of work put in, but at the end of the day it’s all worth it,” Nubin said.
Fleck is most impressed by Nubin’s attitude and work ethic, saying he’s a player who doesn’t ask why he’s not playing, rather someone who works harder to be ready for an opportunity.
“Behind the scenes, putting his head down every single day, being really persistent in his work. … I always knew he’d be ready for his shot,” said safety Tyler Nubin, Jordan’s older brother.
Jordan Nubin, who had six carries for 25 yards in the Gophers first seven games, quickly became the workhorse, finishing with 40 carries, seventh-most in school history.
Does it feel like he had that many carries?
“It definitely did, but was fun to be out there,” he said with a wide smile.
He had eight carries on a nine-play Minnesota drive early in the fourth quarter, including an 18-yard touchdown for a 17-6 lead. His 2-yard touchdown run with 4:11 left iced the game, capping a seven-play drive of which he had six carries.
“We didn’t quite finish like we needed to,” said Michigan State interim coach Harlon Barnett. “Just keep talking and harping on it, working on it, trying to get better at it.”
Michigan State twice started inside the Minnesota 35 in the first quarter, but the Spartans offense could not generate a first down on either, settling for field goals from Jonathan Kim and a 6-0 lead.
Kaliakmanis engineered an eight-play, 94-yard scoring drive late in the first half for a 10-6 Minnesota lead. He completed back-to-back passes of 14 and 18 yards to Jackson to start the trek, and the pair hooked up for a 22-yard score to complete it.
CLEANING UP ITS ACT
Michigan State committed just four penalties. It entered averaging 8.5 per game, 128th among 133 FBS teams when the game is between two FBS schools, including 11 penalties for 102 yards last week against Michigan.
Ranking sixth at 3.6 per game, Minnesota had three infractions.
Michigan State: Might it be time for Leavitt, an agile true freshman, to take over as the starter at quarterback? Replacing Katin Houser (12-22, 117 yards) in the fourth quarter, he completed all four of his passes and ran for 34 yards on the Spartans scoring drive.
Minnesota: The Gophers remain in the hunt to win the mediocre Big Ten West. Minnesota began the day a game back of Wisconsin, who is scheduled to face Ohio State Saturday night. Wisconsin and Minnesota meet Nov. 25. Iowa is also 3-2, but Minnesota holds the tie breaker.
Michigan State: Home to Nebraska Nov. 4.
Minnesota: Welcomes Illinois Nov. 4. The Illini had a bye this week.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll