Recap: The Gophers struggled early, trailing UNLV 6-3 after the first quarter. Minnesota took a 16-13 lead before halftime and scored 35 points after halftime. Minnesota’s offense struggled for most of the game, and two of the Gophers’ second-half touchdowns came on special teams and another came on defense.
It was over when: Junior cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun returned an interception 89 yards for a touchdown with 10:41 remaining in the game, giving the Gophers a 37-16 lead.
1. Marcus Jones appears healthy. The junior has torn his ACL twice since 2011 but gave the Gophers a 23-13 lead early in the third quarter, returning the opening kickoff of the second half 98 yards for a touchdown.
2. Philip Nelson isn’t afraid to run. Nelson had 83 rushing yards and two touchdowns but took some hits from the UNLV defense. The sophomore quarterback said toughness is something head coach Jerry Kill constantly preaches. “It felt great finally getting hit out there and kind of easing the nerves,” he said.
3. Nelson’s backup, Mitch Leidner, looked comfortable in his first collegiate action.
He led the offense on a six-play, 86-yard touchdown drive late in the game. The redshirt freshman was 0-for-1 passing but ran for 25 yards and a touchdown. Kill said Leidner getting playing time was one of the most important parts of the game. “I’d like to have gotten him in there a little bit before,” he said, “but again, the game didn’t dictate that, the way the no-huddle was.”
4. The wide receivers contributed minimally.
The Gophers’ receivers caught six passes for 52 yards Thursday. Sophomore KJ Maye led the group with three catches for 30 yards. “Right now, we need a receiver who is physical and can go get the football and those kinds of things,” Kill said. “Not that we don’t have them. Derrick [Engel] is very capable-he’s proven that. We just need more.”
5. Ra’Shede Hageman is a force in the middle.
The senior defensive lineman didn’t record a sack but blocked a field-goal attempt in the third quarter. After the block, he punched the ball forward, giving Martez Shabazz a chance to score on the recovery.
Quote of the day: "I’m not as fast as I was back in high school, so I wasn’t able to scoop and score it, but I just had the football knowledge of keeping the play moving, moving it along, and Shabazz picked it up." -- Hageman on the field-goal block return touchdown, which gave the Gophers a 30-13 lead.
Student enthusiasm report: The student section appeared mostly full, with pockets of seats open in the corners of the upper deck. Students were loud and enthusiastic throughout the game.
Up next: The Gophers play New Mexico State at 7 p.m. next Saturday in Las Cruces, N.M. The Aggies lost to Texas 56-7 on Saturday and went 1-11 last season. The Gophers last played them in 2011 and lost 28-21.