Oct. 30, 2009
As the Michigan State football team (4-4, 3-2 Big Ten) prepares to take on Minnesota (4-4, 2-3) Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET in TCF Bank Stadium, catch up on all of the latest information on the Spartans before kickoff. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
TELEVISION: The Big Ten Network will televise the Michigan State-Minnesota game live to a national audience, with Wayne Larrivee handling the play-by-play, Chris Martin providing color commentary and Rebecca Haarlow serving as the sideline reporter.
RADIO: The Spartan Sports Network, featuring veteran play-by-play announcer George Blaha, color analyst Jim Miller, sideline reporter Jason Strayhorn and broadcast host Will Tieman, will broadcast the game to 35 affiliates throughout the state. Michigan State football broadcasts can be heard on flagship stations WJIM (AM 1240)/WMMQ (FM 94.9) in Lansing and WJR Radio (AM 760) in Detroit. The MSU-Minnesota game also can be heard live on satellite radio (Minnesota broadcast): SIRIUS (Channel 125) and XM (Channel 196).
Spartan Football All-Access
Coach Dantonio Weekly Press Conference
Thursday Chalk Talk
FIRST-AND-10 (what you need to know about the MSU-Minnesota matchup) -
Saturday's game marks the 42nd meeting between Michigan State and Minnesota, but the first since 2006. The Spartans lead the all-time series 25-16, including an 11-10 record in games played in Minneapolis, Minn. The Golden Gophers have won five of the last seven games; however, Michigan State has won 19 of the last 24 meetings overall. The Spartans are 2-3 in their last five trips to Minneapolis, with MSU's last road win in the series coming on Oct. 18, 2003, 44-38.
Michigan State has won 11 of its last 15 Big Ten games, the best 15-game stretch for the Spartans in league play since the 1989-90 seasons. MSU won its last two Big Ten games in 2007, went 6-2 for a third-place finish last season, and is off to a 3-2 start in 2009.
Michigan State's 2009 schedule ranks among the nation's most difficult (tied for No. 11), according to NCAA figures. The Spartans' 12 opponents have a combined record of 42-28 (.600) against other NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
Michigan State leads the Big Ten in passing offense (273.5 yards per game) and ranks third in total offense (403.5 ypg.).
Michigan State ranks second (tied with Ohio State) in the Big Ten and 11th (tied) in the NCAA with 24 sacks. Over the last four games, the Spartan defense has recorded 29 tackles for loss, including 16 sacks.
Junior linebacker Greg Jones, who leads the Big Ten and ranks second in the NCAA in tackles (12.1 stops per game), has been named one of 16 semifinalists for the Butkus Award and Midseason First-Team All-American by SI.com, CollegeFootballNews.com and Phil Steele. In addition, Jones has been selected Big Ten Midseason Defensive MVP by both ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg and CollegeFootballNews.com.
Jones leads the team in tackles (97 total), tackles for loss (8.5 for 42 yards), sacks (5.0 for 32 yards) and production points (177). He reached double-figure tackles for the sixth time this season, recording 12 tackles, including six solo hits, in Michigan State's 15-13 loss to No. 7 Iowa. With 12 stops, Jones became just the 16th player in Spartan history to reach the 300-tackle career milestone.
Michigan State's passing attack leads the Big Ten and ranks No. 22 in the NCAA, averaging 273.5 yards per game. Sophomore quarterback Kirk Cousins ranks among the Big Ten leaders in passing efficiency (second with a 141.8 rating), passing yards (seventh at 188.5 yards per game) and total offense (eighth at 192.9 ypg.).
Fifth-year senior Blair White leads the Spartans in receptions (48), receiving yards (730) and touchdown catches (7). The 6-foot-2, 200-pound White ranks among the Big Ten leaders in TD receptions (tied for first), receiving yards (third at 91.2 per game) and receptions (fifth at 6.0 per game). White also is listed among the NCAA leaders in both receiving yards (No. 22) and receptions (tied for No. 32). Thirty-two of his 48 catches (67 percent) have produced either a first down or a score, including 13 gains of 20 or more yards.
Lou Groza Award candidate Brett Swenson accounted for seven points in Michigan State's 15-13 loss to No. 7 Iowa to become the school's all-time leading scorer with 335 career points, breaking the mark previously held by Dave Rayner (334 points, 2001-04). He also became MSU's all-time leader with 64 career field goals, hitting from 34 and 23 yards against the Hawkeyes. With his 34-yard field goal in the first quarter, Swenson broke the school record that he previously shared with Rayner (62 made).
UPON FURTHER REVIEW -
Michigan State's four losses this season have been by a combined total of 15 points.
Michigan State also played Minnesota in its inaugural season in the Metrodome, with the Spartans posting a 26-7 victory on Nov. 13, 1982.
Under Mark Dantonio, Michigan State is 14-3 (.823) when leading in time of possession, including a perfect 4-0 in 2009.
Michigan State has outscored its opponents in each of the first three quarters (154-89 combined); however, the Spartans have been outscored 77-58 in the fourth quarter. The Spartans have been most explosive in the third quarter, outscoring their opponents 55-23 (+32 points).
STAT LEADERS -
Michigan State (after eight games):
Rushing - Larry Caper (88 carries for 366 yards, 4.2 avg., 6 TDs)
Passing - Kirk Cousins (115 of 188 for 1,508 yards, 10 TDs, 4 INTs)
Receiving - Blair White (48 catches for 730 yards, 15.2 avg., 7 TDs)
Tackles - Greg Jones (97 tackles, 42 solos, 55 assists, 8.5 TFL, 5.0 sacks)
Minnesota (after eight games):
Rushing - Duane Bennett (70 carries for 306 yards, 4.4 avg., 5 TDs)
Passing - Adam Weber (116 of 213 for 1,437 yards, 6 TDs, 11 INTs)
Receiving - Eric Decker (50 catches for 758 yards, 15.2 avg., 5 TDs)
Tackles - Lee Campbell (90 tackles, 52 solos, 38 assists, 9.0 TFL)
GEORGE COOPER NAMED HONORARY CAPTAIN -
Former Michigan State outside linebacker George Cooper, a four-year letterman from 1978-81, has been selected honorary captain for Saturday night's game at Minnesota. He will address the team during the pre-game meal and join the 2009 captains at midfield for the coin toss.
Cooper lettered as a true freshman for Coach Darryl Rogers' 1978 team that finished 8-3 overall and won a share of the Big Ten championship with a 7-1 league record. He later became a two-year starter for Frank "Muddy" Waters and ranked as the Spartans' second-leading tackler as both a junior and senior.
As a junior in 1980, Cooper produced 78 tackles, including nine for losses (45 yards).
As a senior co-captain in 1981, he recorded a career-best 90 tackles, including seven for losses (20 yards), while being named honorable mention All-Big Ten.
Cooper finished his collegiate career with 198 total tackles, including 17 for losses (77 yards), three interceptions, four pass break-ups and four fumble recoveries.
The Detroit, Mich., native and Northern High School graduate spent four years in professional football, including three seasons with the USFL's Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars (1983-85) and one year with the NFL's San Francisco 49ers (1987). Cooper registered 10.5 sacks and five interceptions in three years with the Stars, including a team-best six sacks in 1984. He played in 10 games for the 49ers in 1987, including two starting assignments.
JONES NAMED BUTKUS AWARD SEMIFINALIST & MIDSEASON ALL-AMERICAN -
Junior linebacker Greg Jones, who leads the Big Ten and ranks second in the NCAA in tackles (12.1 stops per game), has been named one of 16 semifinalists for the Butkus Award and Midseason First-Team All-American by SI.com, CollegeFootballNews.com and Phil Steele. In addition, he has been selected Big Ten Midseason Defensive MVP by both ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg and CollegeFootballNews.com.
The 6-foot-1, 228-pound Jones also is listed among the Big Ten leaders in sacks (tied for seventh at 0.62 per game). He leads the team in tackles (97 total), tackles for loss (8.5 for 42 yards), sacks (5.0 for 32 yards) and production points (177). His 97 total tackles tie New Mexico's Carmen Messina to lead all NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
Jones reached double-figure tackles for the sixth time this season, recording 12 tackles, including six solo hits, in Michigan State's 15-13 loss to No. 7 Iowa. With 12 stops, he became just the 16th player in Spartan history to reach the 300-tackle career milestone. The Spartan defense limited Iowa to 276 total yards, nearly 75 yards below its season average.
He tallied 14 stops including a career-best two sacks (9 yards) in MSU's 24-14 Homecoming victory over Northwestern. The Spartan defense limited the Wildcats to just three first downs and 37 total yards in the third quarter as MSU scored 24 unanswered points en route to a 24-7 lead.
Jones has posted double-digit tackles in 13 of his last 15 games overall, averaging 12.2 stops (183 total) during that stretch. The Cincinnati, Ohio, native has led the team in tackles in 19 of the last 21 games.
He produced 11 tackles in MSU's 24-14 victory at Illinois, including a 6-yard sack. The Spartans built a 17-0 halftime lead at Illinois as the defense limited the Illini to three first downs and 60 total yards in the first half. Illinois' first eight possessions resulted in seven punts and one turnover.
Jones posted 14 stops, including nine solo hits, in the Big Ten opener at Wisconsin.
He made nine stops at Notre Dame, ending his streak of consecutive games with double-figure tackles at nine. Jones averaged 12.8 tackles during that nine-game stretch, and it marked the longest streak by a Spartan since Chuck Bullough produced double-digit tackles in 15 straight games in 1990-91 (Oct. 20, 1990, game vs. Illinois through Nov. 2, 1991, game vs. Northwestern). Bullough averaged 15.7 tackles during his 15-game streak.
Jones matched his career high with 15 tackles against Central Michigan, including 1.5 for losses (3 yards).
The 2009 Big Ten Preseason Defensive Player of the Year registered 14 tackles in the season opener against Montana State, with three resulting in losses (16 yards) including 1.5 sacks (11).
Jones has started 28 of 34 career games, including 22 consecutive starting assignments. He has 302 career tackles, including 31 for losses (113 yards) and 11.5 sacks (66 yards). Jones ranks seventh among NCAA FBS active leaders in tackles, averaging 8.9 stops per game. His 31 tackles for loss rank eighth on MSU's all-time list (tied with Kelly Quinn, 1982-84).
GORDON PROVIDES STEADY PRODUCTION -
Junior linebacker Eric Gordon ranks second on the team in tackles (55) and production points (121) and third in tackles for loss (7.5 for 39 yards) and sacks (3.5 for 32). Gordon ranks among the Big Ten leaders in league games in tackles for loss (seventh at 1.2 per game), sacks (seventh at 0.6 per game) and tackles (19th at 7.4 per game).
The 6-foot, 228-pound Gordon played especially well during Michigan State's three-game winning streak, averaging 9.3 tackles (28 total) during the stretch. He recorded a sack in each of those three victories (vs. Michigan, Illinois and Northwestern).
Gordon recorded a career-best 14 tackles, including two for losses (8 yards), in MSU's 24-14 Homecoming win over Northwestern.
He made six stops in the Spartans' 24-14 victory at Illinois, including two behind the line of scrimmage (8 yards).
Gordon produced eight tackles, including 1.5 for losses (15 yards), in MSU's 26-20 overtime victory over No. 22 Michigan.
The Traverse City, Mich., native has started 31 of 33 career games, including 22 consecutive starting assignments.
SPARTANS FEATURE DEEP & TALENTED RECEIVING CORPS -
Michigan State's receiving corps features two career 1,000-yard receivers: fifth-year senior Blair White (94 catches for 1,414 yards) and junior Mark Dell (73 for 1,183). Sophomore B.J. Cunningham (74 for 934) needs just 66 more receiving yards to reach the 1,000-yard career milestone. That trio has combined for 241 receptions, 3,531 yards and 17 career touchdowns.
WHITE KEYS EXPLOSIVE PASSING GAME -
Fifth-year senior Blair White leads the Spartans in receptions (48), receiving yards (730) and touchdown catches (7). White ranks among the Big Ten leaders in TD receptions (tied for first), receiving yards (third at 91.2 per game) and receptions (fifth at 6.0 per game). His seven TD receptions rank among the Top 10 single-season totals (tied for eighth) in Michigan State history. He also is listed among the NCAA leaders in both receiving yards (No. 22) and receptions (tied for No. 32). Thirty-two of his 48 catches (67 percent) have produced either a first down or a score, including 13 gains of 20 or more yards.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound White caught three passes for 95 yards in MSU's 15-13 loss to No. 7 Iowa, including a 27-yard gain on a hook-and-lateral play late in the fourth quarter and a 25-yard TD grab from Kirk Cousins with 1:37 left that gave the Spartans' a 13-9 lead.
White, who set career highs for receptions (12) and receiving yards (186) and matched his career-best with two touchdown receptions in the Spartans' 24-14 Homecoming victory over Northwestern, was selected Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week. He shared the honor with Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell. In addition to his selection as Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week, White was named National Wide Receiver of the Week (shares honor with Bowling Green's Freddie Barnes) by the College Football Performance Awards.
His 12 catches (fourth) and 186 receiving yards (10th) rank among the top single-game totals in Spartan history. In addition, his 186 receiving yards are the highest single-game figure in the Big Ten and the 11th-best single-game total in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision this season. White scored on TD grabs of 22 and 47 yards from Cousins in the third quarter against the Wildcats. It marked White's third 100-yard receiving game of the season and the fifth of his career.
White led the Spartans with four catches for 50 yards in Michigan State's 24-14 victory at Illinois, including three grabs that resulted in first downs.
He led the team with six receptions for 49 yards in MSU's 26-20 overtime victory over No. 22 Michigan.
White caught six passes for 75 yards and two scores in MSU's 33-30 loss at Notre Dame. He scored on a 30-yard pass from wide receiver Keshawn Martin in the second quarter and a 17-yard strike from Cousins in the fourth quarter that gave the Spartans a 30-26 lead.
The Saginaw, Mich., native recorded his second-straight 100-yard receiving game with seven catches for 105 yards against Central Michigan.
He had a career-high nine receptions for 162 yards and two TDs in the 2009 season opener against Montana State. White scored on TD grabs of 15 and 24 yards from Cousins against the Bobcats. His 162 receiving yards were just 2 yards shy of his career best (164 vs. Wisconsin in 2008). Almost one-third of his receiving yards (51 of 162) came after the catch against Montana State.
A former walk-on, White has 94 career receptions for 1,414 yards (15.0 avg.) and eight TDs. The Saginaw, Mich., native has caught at least one pass in 19 consecutive games.
COUSINS OFF TO A SOLID START -
Sophomore quarterback Kirk Cousins ranks second in the Big Ten and No. 31 in the NCAA in passing efficiency with his 141.8 rating. His 141.8 passing efficiency rating ranks among the Top 10 single-season totals (seventh) in Spartan history. In seven starts, Cousins has completed 115-of-188 throws (.612) for 1,508 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. He also ranks among the Big Ten leaders in passing yards (seventh at 188.5 yards per game) and total offense (eighth at 192.9 ypg.).
The 6-foot-3, 202-pound Cousins posted his fourth 200-yard passing game of the season, completing 16-of-32 throws for 225 yards and a score, in Michigan State's 15-13 loss to No. 7 Iowa. He compiled those numbers against an Iowa defensive unit that entered the game ranked second in the NCAA in pass defense, allowing just 167 yards per game. Cousins threw for 143 yards in the second half against the Hawkeyes, and his 30-yard TD strike to Blair White gave the Spartans a 13-9 lead with 1:37 left in the game.
He completed 21-of-31 passes for 281 yards in Michigan State's 24-14 Homecoming victory over Northwestern, including TD strikes of 22 and 47 yards to White.
Cousins accounted for 227 total yards in Michigan State's 26-20 overtime victory over No. 22 Michigan. He hit 15-of-21 throws for 152 yards and two interceptions against the Wolverines. He also led the team in rushing, gaining 75 yards on seven carries. Cousins produced runs of 19 and 41 yards against the Wolverines.
He recorded his second-straight 200-yard passing game, completing 17-of-34 passes for 201 yards, two TDs and an interception in the Big Ten opener at Wisconsin. Cousins completed scoring tosses of 14 yards to Mark Dell and 20 yards to B.J. Cunningham.
He completed 23-of-35 throws for 302 yards, one TD and one interception in MSU's 33-30 loss at Notre Dame. Cousins set career highs for completions, attempts and passing yards against the Irish. His 302 passing yards mark the third-best single-game total by a Spartan quarterback against Notre Dame (Drew Stanton - 327 in 2005; Ed Smith - 306 in 1978).
Cousins hit 13-of-18 passes for 164 yards and a score in MSU's 29-27 loss to Central Michigan. With the score tied at 20, he went 5-for-5 for 59 yards on a 13-play, 80-yard drive as the Spartans took a 27-20 lead on his 35-yard TD strike to Cunningham with 7:33 left in the game.
In his first career start, Cousins completed 10-of-17 throws for 183 yards and a career-best three scores against Montana State in the 2009 season and home opener. He completed TD strikes of 29 yards to Cunningham, and 15 and 24 yards to White. He connected on 7-of-11 passes for 118 yards and two TDs in the first half against the Bobcats.
NICHOL PROVIDES A SPARK OFF THE BENCH -
Red-shirt sophomore quarterback Keith Nichol has come off the bench in five of the first eight games this season (DNP vs. Northwestern and Iowa due to an elbow injury), accounting for 759 total yards. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Nichol has completed 39-of-75 passes (.520) for 650 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions. Nichol ranks third in the Big Ten in passing efficiency with his 138.8 rating. In addition, he ranks as the team's fifth-leading rusher with 109 yards on 18 carries (6.1 yards per carry).
With Kirk Cousins sidelined with an ankle injury, Nichol made his first career start in a 24-14 victory at Illinois and accounted for 206 total yards. He completed 13-of-25 throws for 179 yards and rushed six times for 27 yards. His 23-yard completion to Mark Dell on a third-and-8 play kept Michigan State's game-opening drive alive that eventually resulted in a touchdown. Nichol had two fourth-down conversions on the Spartans' second TD drive, hitting Blair White for a 7-yard gain on fourth-and-3 and running 3 yards on fourth-and-1.
He and Cousins combined to throw for 396 yards at Wisconsin, tying for the second-highest total in school history (396 yards vs. Purdue, 1998). Nichol hit 7-of-12 passes for a career-best 195 yards, two TDs and two interceptions against the Badgers. He completed TD strikes of 15 and 91 yards to Keshawn Martin in the fourth quarter. His 91-yard bomb to Martin ranks as the second-longest passing play in Spartan history (school-record 93-yarder from Tony Banks to Nigea Carter vs. Indiana in 1994), and it also ranks as the sixth-longest passing play recorded in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision this season. Nichol's 216.5 passing efficiency rating against Wisconsin ranks as the 25th-highest single-game figure posted in the NCAA FBS this season.
CAPER PACES GROUND ATTACK -
True freshman Larry Caper leads the team in rushing (366 yards) and rushing touchdowns (6). Caper ranks eighth in the Big Ten in rushing in league games, averaging 49.6 yards per game. The Battle Creek, Mich., native has a chance to become the first true freshman to lead the Spartans in rushing since Javon Ringer (817 yards) in 2005. His six rushing TDs already exceed Ringer's freshman output (five TDs).
Nineteen of his 88 rushing attempts (22 percent) have resulted in either a first down or a touchdown.
Caper matched his season high with 16 carries for 63 yards in Michigan State's 24-14 Homecoming victory over Northwestern, including a 22-yard TD run off left tackle early in the fourth quarter.
He accounted for 139 all-purpose yards in MSU's 24-14 victory at Illinois, as the Spartans recorded their sixth-straight win in Memorial Stadium. In his first career start, Caper set season highs for carries (16) and rushing yards (95). He capped off a 13-play, 81-yard drive with a 17-yard touchdown run around right end as MSU jumped out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead. Caper also had two receptions for 44 yards, including a 30-yard grab from Keith Nichol.
The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Caper matched his season high with two rushing TDs against No. 22 Michigan, including his 23-scamper around right end on a third-and-8 play in overtime that gave the Spartans a 26-20 victory. In the first quarter, he capped off a 17-play, 80-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run on a fourth-and-goal play as MSU took a 7-3 lead.
In Game 3 at Notre Dame, Caper rushed 12 times for 51 yards and scored on runs of 1 and 7 yards.
SWENSON REWRITES SPARTAN RECORD BOOK -
Lou Groza Award candidate Brett Swenson ranks among the Big Ten leaders in field-goal percentage (first at .923), scoring (third at 7.4 points per game) and field goals (third at 1.5 made per game). He leads the team in scoring with 59 points, converting 12-of-13 field-goal attempts and 23-of-24 extra-point tries. Since his 51-yard attempt hit the right upright in the first quarter at Notre Dame, Swenson has made seven consecutive field goals.
The 5-foot-8, 185-pound Swenson accounted for seven points in Michigan State's 15-13 loss to No. 7 Iowa to become the school's all-time leading scorer with 335 career points, breaking the mark previously held by Dave Rayner (334 points, 2001-04). He also became MSU's all-time leader with 64 career field goals, hitting from 34 and 23 yards against the Hawkeyes. With his 34-yard field goal in the first quarter, Swenson broke the school record that he previously shared with Rayner (62 made).
He scored eight points in Michigan State's 26-20 overtime win over No. 22 Michigan, hitting 2-of-2 field-goal attempts (from 26 and 24 yards) and both extra-point tries.
Swenson accounted for 11 points in MSU's season-opening 44-3 victory over Montana State, hitting 2-of-2 field-goal attempts and all five PATs.
Swenson ranks second among NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision active leaders in scoring and field goals. He ranks among the Big Ten's all-time leaders in field goals (tied for seventh) and kick scoring (eighth).
The Pompano Beach, Fla., native also ranks among MSU's all-time leaders in field-goal percentage (second at .780) and extra points (second with 143 made). With his first two extra points against Notre Dame, Swenson tied Rayner's (2003-04) school record with 76 consecutive PATS; however, his third attempt was blocked by the Irish.
BATES IMPACTS FIELD POSITION -
Ray Guy Award candidate Aaron Bates ranks fifth in the Big Ten and No. 31 in the NCAA in punting with his 42.6-yard average. Fifteen of his 36 punts (42 percent) this season have been downed inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Bates also has hit 10 punts 50 or more yards, including a season-long 59-yarder at Illinois.
The 6-foot, 192-pound junior averaged 42.8 yards on six punts against No. 7 Iowa, including two kicks downed inside the Hawkeye 20 in the first half.
Bates averaged 38.1 yards on seven punts at Illinois, including three kicks placed inside the Illini 20. On two of those three possessions that started inside its own 20, Illinois went three-and-out.
He averaged 43.0 yards on three punts against No. 22 Michigan, including two kicks downed inside the Wolverine 10-yard line.
Bates averaged 45.0 yards on three punts at Notre Dame, including two kicks downed inside the Irish 20-yard line. He averaged 45.6 yards on five punts against Central Michigan, including four kicks downed inside the Chippewa 20.
He ranks among MSU's all-time leaders in punting average (seventh at 41.2) and punting yards (ninth at 7,255). Bates has placed 60 of his 176 career punts (34 percent) inside the opponent's 20.