Game Recap: Gophers Take Care of Business on Homecoming, Improve to 5-0
If you would have told me the Gophers would be 5-0 (2-0) after their poor performance against South Dakota State at the beginning of the year, I would have said you were crazy.
But here they are! 5-0 and taking care of business!
The Gophers utterly dismantled the Illinois Fighting Illini Saturday winning 40-17 at home. Minnesota presented the best of both worlds with the offense and defense lighting it up on the field.
I will say, however, it did not look good early. On the Gophers second possession after punting on their first, quaterback Tanner Morgan threw a terrible interception that went for an Illinois touchdown. I was thinking it could be a long day. But Illinois would only go on to score 10 more points.
The Minnesota offense was ignited by Rodney Smith, who had a 64-yard run on the Gophers first possession of the second quarter that helped lead to Minnesota's first touchdown and first lead of the game.
Smith was lights out after that, rushing for a whopping 211 yards with one touchdown on 24 carries. That is almost 9 yards per carry! And other Gopher running back, Shannon Brooks, looks like he is finally coming to fruition. In just his second game back from injury, Brooks rushed for 111 yards including a beautiful 21 yard touchdown run in the second quarter to expand the Gophers lead 16-7.
As for Morgan, he responded extremely well after throwing a pick six early in the first quarter. Morgan went onto throw three touchdowns and finished 9 for 17 with zero turnovers. It was no performance like last week versus Purdue where he completed over 90 percent of his passes, but he still completed the necessary passes to complement the running game.
Morgan found three different receivers on each of the three receiving touchdowns. It is no surprise to see Tyler Johnson and Chris Autman-Bell on the receiving end of two of those, but for tight end, Brevyn Spann-Ford, it was his first collegiate touchdown. Great job young man!
I will say too that Johnson struggled early on to catch the ball, maybe because it was wet out, I am not sure. But his touchdown grab was impressive. He tipped a high throw back down to himself in the endzone early in the second quarter.
As for star receiver Rashod Bateman, he did not record a touchdown, but still had some stellar catches to extend drives, leading all in receiving with 71 yards.
One concern after coming out of last week was consistency out of the Gophers defense. I have to say I was a bit worried matching up against an Illinois offense that scored over 30 points in every one of its first four games. But they were anything but perfect.
They notched five TFL and three sacks with one interception. And more impressive yet, they only allowed three points. Illinois finished with 17 points, but 14 of those came from a pick six and a fumble recovered for a touchdown.
Senior linebacker, Kamal Martin lead the defense with seven total tackles and an interception, slowing any offensive momentum for the Illini.
It was by far the best performance of the year for the Minnesota defense. And the offensive line looked great as well, only allowing one sack the entire game. This allowed for Smith and Brooks to get space and run down field.
The Golden Gophers take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers next weekend in prime time in Minneapolis with a start time of 6:30PM CT. It will be entertaining
to see Minnesota play to go 6-0! Wow! It feels weird thinking that we could be perfect halfway through the season. We will see! It will be an exciting game for sure!
Row the Boat, Ski-U-Mah, Go Gophers!