Two different starts brought two different results for Minnesota in the first weekend of Big Ten play. Minnesota (2-2-0, 1-1-0 Big Ten) split its first Big Ten series of the season with Penn State (2-2-0, 1-1-0 Big Ten), losing 3-1 Friday and winning 6-3 Sunday.
Worried about losing three straight conference games, the Gophers put in backup quarterback Demry Croft late in the second quarter against No. 21 Michigan State. Croft found his rhythm in the fourth quarter and connected on three touchdown passes, but that wasn't enough for a victory in the rain on Saturday night.
Minnesota is winless in the Big Ten this season, and they might stay that way for another week. After two consecutive conference games, two consecutive losses to Big Ten teams and two consecutive games where quarterback Conor Rhoda threw an interception in the last minute of play, Minnesota looks to break from the trends that have followed the team recently.
The Gophers came into this season with questions at quarterback, and after five games, the position is Conor Rhoda's — for now. While he has 54 completions per his 97 attempts, he has also thrown four interceptions in five games.
The Gophers are about start another campaign in the Big Ten, and for the first time since 2015-16, they have a new leadership core. That group of four players is led by junior Tyler Sheehy, picked as captain last spring, who is embracing the title and is ready to learn as the Gophers head into conference hockey on Friday.
Minnesota’s schedule doesn’t get much easier from here. The Gophers (3-2, 0-2 Big Ten) face Michigan State (4-1, 2-0 Big Ten) at TCF Bank Stadium Saturday, and Minnesota has work to do to prevent more losses like the ones against Maryland and Purdue.
The Gophers looked to avenge a seven-game losing streak to the Bulldogs dating back to 2014. Despite being tied on the scoreboard 3-3 at the end of regulation, the Gophers fell to the Bulldogs 4-3 in overtime on the first day of the Ice Breaker Tournament, extending their losing streak to the in-state rival to eight games, and won against Union Saturday 2-0 to end the weekend 1-1.
The Gophers did what head coach P.J. Fleck preaches every week — they won the turnover battle. But that didn't help the team pull off the win. Minnesota (3-2, 0-2 Big Ten) fell to Purdue (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) 31-17 Saturday after winning the turnover battle 4-2, but suffering one to Purdue in the last minute of play clinched the Boilermakers' victory.
For this weekly column, the Minnesota Daily will interview someone knowledgeable about Minnesota’s next opponent. This week, the Gophers are playing Purdue. The Daily talked this week with Conner Klotz. Klotz is the sports editor for the Purdue Exponent, the student newspaper at Purdue.
Forward Mike Szmatula's hard work shows both on and off the ice. Szmatula has used a combination of faith, family and gritty play style to elevate himself and become an assistant captain for the Gophers at 25 years old, and to get through all the change in his career after he began playing college hockey at 21.