Halftime: Michigan State 21, Minnesota 17

November, 5, 2011
11/05/11
1:39
PM ET
All three Big Ten halftime scores are surprising. This one may be the biggest head-scratcher.

Yes, Minnesota beat Iowa last week, but most people figured the Gophers got up emotionally in the rivalry game and would fall back down in a tough road spot. But Jerry Kill's team has thus far brought its momentum into East Lansing.

Michigan State leads thanks to an excellent touchdown drive engineered by Kirk Cousins after Minnesota kicked a field goal with 1:03 left. Cousins was fired up on the sideline after throwing a short touchdown pass, trying to get his teammates pumped up. And for much of the first half, the Spartans looked like they needed a spark.

The team went through an emotional October and is coming off a tough loss at Nebraska, so you could understand why the players might be a little flat against Minnesota. Edwin Baker lost a fumble, B.J. Cunningham couldn't haul in a touchdown pass, and the Gophers scored on a long touchdown pass in one of the worst displays of tackling you'll ever see by a Mark Dantonio team.

But Minnesota is playing well. Quarterback MarQueis Gray's improvement the past couple of weeks is startling. He's 9-for-13 for 163 yards with two touchdown passes to Da'Jon McKnight. He has also run for 34 yards.

The Gophers are gaining confidence and may hang around this one for a while. Michigan State needs to play with the urgency it showed in the final minute of the half, or its Big Ten title hopes could go up in smoke.

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