The Gophers started slow Saturday, and with 10:53 left in the first half, Middle Tennessee had tied the game at 3-3. Then, Minnesota's offense clicked. The Gophers responded to the Blue Raiders with 31 unanswered points, 221 rushing yards and no turnovers in the game, leading to a 34-3 victory at TCF Bank Stadium. With the win, Minnesota is now 3-0 on the season heading into conference play.
Minnesota is now 2-0 in the first season of the Fleck era. Head coach P.J. Fleck and his Gophers got the first road win of the year after beating the Oregon State Beavers (1-2) 48-14 in Corvallis. The Gophers will now take on Middle Tennessee (1-1) on Saturday, 2:30 p.m. at TCF Bank Stadium. The Blue Raiders are coming off an upset victory against Syracuse, but the team might be without its starting quarterback, Brent Stockstill, who suffered a shoulder injury in the last game.
Gary Moore’s future with the Gophers was unsure when P.J. Fleck took over as head coach. Many Gophers players were close to exiting the program with this year's coaching change, but this year, Moore has broken out as a threat on the defensive line. The defensive tackle turned heads last week with a strip-sack on Oregon State’s quarterback that put the Gophers in scoring position on the Beavers' 24 yard line.
Demry Croft, one of the two Gophers starting quarterbacks in the first two games, is not suiting up for this week’s game, head coach P.J. Fleck said on Tuesday. “Demry Croft will not be with us,” Fleck said. “He’s dealing with some personal issues that are way, way more important than football.”
Gophers quarterback Conor Rhoda has been in a starting-spot battle with redshirt sophomore Demry Croft the whole season. After Croft gave up a fumble in the second quarter, he was benched until the last two drives. Rhoda took over the role for most of the second half and led the Gophers to a 34-point win over Oregon State in Corvallis, Oregon on Saturday. “I will say today is the first time I’ve watched Conor Rhoda take control of the football team,” head coach P.J. Fleck told reporters.
For this weekly column, the Minnesota Daily will interview someone knowledgeable about Minnesota’s next opponent. Manase Hungalu, the middle linebacker for Oregon State, was interviewed this week. Hungalu has had 16 starts in his career with the Beavers. He had 83 total tackles in 2016, the first among returners. He had eight tackles in last year’s game against Minnesota.
Antoine Winfield Jr. was carted off the field after tweaking his hamstring in early August. In the season opener on Aug. 31, the sophomore defensive back showed no signs of injury in a performance that led the team to victory over Buffalo. He had a sack and two pass deflections, and blocked a field goal.
Shannon Brooks’ 1-yard touchdown with under a minute left in the first quarter proved to be the dagger Thursday. That score gave the Gophers a one-touchdown lead, and Minnesota added a field goal to make it 17-7, giving head coach P.J. Fleck a win in his first game as the Gophers new head coach. “It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to see,” Fleck said. “That doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me [is] they found a way to win.”
Minnesota takes on non-conference opponent Buffalo Thursday evening in the 2017 season opener. New head coach P.J. Fleck routed the Buffalo Bulls 38-0 with his Western Michigan team last year, and will try to do the same with his new team.
Conor Rhoda was told in December his scholarship was getting pulled. Eight months and a P.J. Fleck phone call later, Rhoda is now one of the team's starting quarterbacks.