Nov. 11, 2006
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -Bryan Cupito became Minnesota's all-time leading passer and threw two second-half touchdowns to help the Golden Gophers pull away for a 31-18 victory over Michigan State on Saturday.
Minnesota (5-6, 2-5 Big Ten) kept its bowl hopes alive, needing to beat Iowa at home in the regular-season finale next week to make it to the postseason for the seventh time in eight years.
The loss knocked the Spartans (4-7, 1-6) out of the bowl picture in what was an inglorious home finale, 1 1/2 weeks after John L. Smith was fired and permitted to finish the season on the sideline.
Michigan State returned a blocked punt for a score and had a safety, taking a 9-0 lead midway through the first quarter. Then, the Spartans were dealt the latest in a long line of bad breaks this year.
Quarterback Drew Stanton was sacked late in the first quarter, and left the game because of dizziness in his last home contest. Stanton is one of five finalists for the Unitas Award.
Minnesota went ahead for good with 8:53 left in the first half when Mario Reese sacked Brian Hoyer, whose fumble was returned 48 yards by Steve Davis to give the Gophers a 14-9 lead.
Cupito's 37-yard TD pass to Ernie Wheelwright, who eluded two Spartans with spin moves, put Minnesota ahead 24-12 midway through the third quarter. On the play, Cupito broke Cory Sauter's school-record 6,834 yards passing set from 1994-97.
He connected with Logan Payne on a 41-yard score early in the fourth quarter to give the Gophers a 19-point lead.
Cupito was 16-of-28 for 243 yards - 6,916 for his career - with two TDs. Logan caught five passes for 96 yards and a score. Amir Pinnix had 113 yards rushing on 23 carries.
Hoyer's 26-yard TD pass to Matt Trannon made it 31-18 with 2:54 left, but the Spartans didn't have much hope for a comeback and neither did their fans, who left the stadium almost empty in the fourth quarter.
Hoyer completed 26 of 50 passes for 330 yards with a TD, two interceptions and a fumble. Kerry Reed caught 11 passes for 147 yards and Trannon had seven receptions for 131 yards and a score.