Rapid reaction: Gophers prevail at Colorado State
Final: Minnesota 23, Colorado State 20 (OT)
Telling stat: Four Colorado State turnovers
What do you have to do to win on the road? Win the turnover battle. Minnesota couldn’t afford to give possessions away, and against the pass-happy Rams, they were going to have an opportunity or two to get takeaways. Sure enough, four CSU turnovers proved costly. It probably wasn’t a good sign for the Rams when Briean Boddy-Calhoun picked off the game’s first play.
Key play: Mitch Leidner go-ahead TD pass to K.J. Maye with 55 seconds left
Minnesota needed their offense to make a clutch play to avoid falling to 0-2 and clutch was it ever. Leidner stepped up and had arguably the timeliest touchdown pass of his career to K.J. Maye. For all the questions we were asking about who the go-to receiver for Minnesota was going to be, Maye might’ve answered that with one fourth-quarter touchdown. Yes, Minnesota surrendered a field goal to force overtime, but one turnover or failed conversion and the Gophers were coming back to Minneapolis still searching for their first win.
-Minnesota CB’s are still quite impressive
I understand that Rashard Higgins was a late scratch, which made the Gopher corners breathe a little easier. But Boddy-Calhoun and Eric Murray stepped up for the Gophers in a big way. On a day where Steven Richardson recorded the only Minnesota sack, a big day from the defensive backfield was needed. Only 142 of CSU’s yards came through the air. After how effortless the Rams’ passing game looked in a 65-point opener, Minnesota’s dynamic duo squashed any short-lived confidence. Three field goals, including the game-winner and a 50-yarder, from Ryan Santoso was also quite impressive.
-Rodney Smith impresses again
Smith is beginning to look a whole lot like a Jerry Kill workhorse back. He ripped off a career-high 108 yards, which was the most by a Gopher freshman in seven years. He showed off his combination of power and speed on a 26-yard scamper and set up the Gophers when Leidner wasn’t having success through the air. Also important, Rodrick Williams Jr., who I pegged as the clear starter coming into this year, was only given six touches. Kill will keep him involved, but it’s clear that the backfield belongs to Smith.
What it means: Gophers defense travels
Any notion that the opening effort against No. 2 TCU was just a product of an enormous amount of hype for the opener was put to bed. Minnesota is not going to get pushed around by many people this season. Dalyn Dawkins had his moments against the front seven, but Minnesota turned in the defensive effort it needed on the road against a solid Mountain West team.
What’s next: vs. Kent State
After watching Illinois hold Kent State to three points, I’m confident the Gophers won’t have any problems improving to 2-1.