Le’Veon Bell is about as good as advertised. And the Gophers found out the hard way against Michigan State.
Bell entered Saturday as the second-leading rusher in the Big Ten, but he took over the top spot after rushing for a career-high 266 yards against the Gophers.
Minnesota has struggled with stopping the run all year, but Bell took it to a whole different level on Saturday. Bell displayed both power and patience on the ground.
“He’s definitely one of the best running backs we saw all year,” senior D.L. Wilhite said. “They challenged us to stop him, and as a defense we really couldn’t get that done.”
Bell busted off runs of 26 and 40 yards in the first quarter and built on his total throughout the game.
Minnesota struggled to bring down the 240-pound back, as Bell seemed to fall forward for positive yards every time he touched the ball.
“We struggled getting him to the ground. It wasn’t like there weren’t people there,” defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said.
In Bell’s 40-yard run, he rumbled up field and was met by safety Derrick Wells in the secondary.
Bell carried Wells on his back an extra 20 yards before Wells finally brought him down.
Wilhite said he was embarrassed by the performance “because we’re supposed to set the tone up front.”
Claeys assumed the role of head coach in the second half after Jerry Kill suffered a seizure near the end of halftime.
Wilhite, Michael Carter and MarQueis Gray said they didn’t even notice Kill was gone from the sideline because they were locked in.
Claeys said he thought the Spartans smelled blood in the water in the fourth quarter and took advantage of it.
Bell tacked on a touchdown in the fourth quarter to ice the game for Michigan State.
Minnesota improved its pass defense this week after struggling to contain Nebraska last week. But it didn’t matter.
“I’m definitely not satisfied with rushing the passer and not giving up as many pass yards,” Wilhite said, “because we really didn’t get it done.”