Final Score: Minnesota 38 Fresno State 35
Brief Recap: Let’s forget the first three quarters of this one for a minute, because it wasn’t pretty for Minnesota. But when the Gophers needed to make big plays, they got the job done. Talk about clutch gene. Every time Minnesota needed a big play down the stretch, they got it. Rashod Bateman and Chris Autman-Bell made some big catches, Rodney Smith and Mohamed Ibrahim ran angry, Tanner Morgan hit guys on the money. Overall, the performance was again concerning, but in the end, Minnesota made the plays it needed to win. That’s all that matters.
Key Moment: There’s a tie. Autman-Bell’s spectacular TD grab on 4th-and-long with the game on the line might go down as one of the plays of the year. It’s the only reason the Gophers got to overtime. For a second straight year, though, Antoine Winfield Jr. made the game-winning interception. Unbelievable stuff.
Key Stat: These are the kind of games where stats don’t really matter, but since we’re talking about it, I’ll pick one. Minnesota was 1-for-1 on converting 4th down attempts on Saturday night. That was the touchdown pass to Autman-Bell in the 4th quarter. Without it, we’re writing a very different recap.
Key Player: As good as the receivers were in this game, Tanner Morgan actually deserves a ton of credit. He was 16-of-23 for 234 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also held on the football and crossed the goal line as a runner on a smart read option in overtime to extend the game. Morgan easily could’ve panicked in the late-game situation, but he held his composure and helped the Gophers squeak out a victory.
What it Means: Good teams find ways to win, even when things are working against them. This was a tough, late-night game in a different environment. Minnesota looked like it was going to get beat several times, but was able to come through in the clutch, just as it did last week against South Dakota State. It is a little concerning that Minnesota hasn’t played much better in the first two weeks of the season — considering it’s supposed to be a B1G West contender — but the most difficult part is finding ways to win tight games. P.J. Fleck and company are 2-0 in that department right now.