Game Recap: #13 Minnesota Blows Out Maryland, Improves to 8-0!
When I was at the first game of the season against South Dakota State, I remember overhearing some Gophers fans discussing how we could be 8-0 heading into the Penn State game based on our schedule. And then we had an atrocious game against SDSU, barely beating the Jack Rabbits. I was walking out of TCF Bank Stadium saying to myself: "No way in hell we go 8-0!" Laugh out loud!
Well here we are! Ranked 13th in the nation, our highest ranking since 1999, and 8-0 for the first time since 1941.
1941!!! That is absolutely insane! That is when we were winning national titles and were atop all the rankings. That is the era when Minnesota had its only Heisman trophy winner, Bruce Smith, who was an excellent running back here at the U.
In the game to decide whether or not the Gophers would get to 8-0, Minnesota dominated the Maryland Terrapins, 52-10. The Gophers had Maryland's name from the start and the Terrapins never stood a chance against a powerful offense and tactical defense from Minnesota.
Just 30 seconds into the game, an overthrown ball from Tyrell Pigrome was intercepted by Antoine Winfield Jr. that set up a 20 yard touchdown pass from Tanner Morgan to Rashod Bateman. And just like that the Gophers were up 7-0 and the rest was history.
Seth Green would get the first rushing touchdown for Minnesota near the end of the first quarter to put them up 14-zip. Green finished with two rushing touchdowns on 34 rushing yards. He was utilized in short yardage situations and converted every time.
nSpeaking of rushing, Rodney Smith had another big day with 103 yards on the ground and one touchdown. But most importantly, on that one yard touchdown run in the third quarter that put Minnesota up 38-3, Smith moved into the top spot as the school's all-time leader in all-purpose yards with 5,110 surpassing Darrell Thompson.
Minnesota scored 28 points before Maryland finally got on the board with a field goal at the end of the first half. Cornerback Coney Durr took advantage of a mishandled ball from a Maryland receiver, intercepting it and returning it all the way back for a touchdown. That put Minnesota up 28-0 and put a dagger into Maryland's chances for a comeback.
Even better yet, PJ Fleck put in his second team near the end of the fourth quarter lead by Texas-native true freshman quarterback, Jacob Clark and true freshman running back Treyson Potts, and they put together an impressive scoring drive to extend the Gophers lead 52-10.
On just one drive, Clark threw just one pass, but he completed it to sophomore wide receiver, Harry Van Dyne for 39 yards. And Potts finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown run. He finished with 42 yards on four carries on one drive.
I didn't expect the second team players to put together a successful drive, but they did in a very impressive way. This makes me confident and optimistic in the recruiting and future of the program.
As for the starters, Chris Autman-Bell lead all in receiving with 56 yards on only four receptions. Bateman finished with 39 yards and a touchdown, and Tyler Johnson had 37 yards and a touchdown. Johnson's tuddy came on a beautiful slant play that Minnesota runs so well for 16 yards.
Tanner Morgan finished the game completing 12 of 21 passes for 138 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The low passing yardage from Morgan shows this team is heavily utilizing the run game, and rightfully so as the Gophers had 321 total rushing yards.
Combined with their passing yards, Minnesota finished the game with 498 total yards. And the defense came away only allowing 210 total yards (131 pass, 79 rush) with two INTs, three TFL and two sacks. What a performance from this defense! They will need to bring that momentum into the Penn State game in two weeks.
And for another week, the offensive line held their own allowing zero sacks and only one TFL. Talk about a massive improvement from the beginning of the year. I said if the O-line did not improve, this season would be a disaster. And improve they have. The offensive line is one of the biggest reasons Minnesota is still unbeaten. They are making the big blocks, creating space and playing aggressive. That's all there is to it.
This team is playing its best football in years. And they have a real chance to elevate themselves to a status they have not witnessed for 60 years.
Minnesota has a bye next week and then takes on #5 Penn State the next Saturday, November 9th. Mark your calendars ladies and gentlemen! This may be the most important game for the Minnesota Golden Gophers in years. It will certainly be tough, but it will show how good this team truly is in comparison to the nation's top teams.
Row the boat, Ski-U-Mah, Go Gophers!