Final: Minnesota 48 – New Mexico State 10
After a slow start to their first home game of the season, the Gophers were able to put together a 28-point second quarter to pull away from the Aggies and secure the first victory of the season.
Walk-on true freshman Zack Annexstad made the first start of his career; he was only the second FBS quarterback to ever start the opening game as a true freshman walk-on. He went 16-33 and threw for 220 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Tyler Johnson had 5 catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns, while redshirt senior Rodney Smith had 153 yards on 24 carries.
Emmit Carpenter added two field goals in the second half and a touchdown by Bryce Williams cemented the victory.
It was over when:
Minnesota broke out for four touchdowns in the second quarter and pulled away with a 35-10 lead. The 25-point deficit did not get smaller in the second half, as the Gophers added 13 points and the defense held New Mexico State to zero points in the second half.
Antoine Winfield Jr. fielded a New Mexico State punt and took it back 76 yards to put the Gophers up 28-10 with 2:45 left in the second quarter. On his way to the end zone, the redshirt sophomore broke multiple defenders' tackling attempts in what his coaches have called the best punt return they have ever seen.
1. The Wildcat formation paid off
Quarterback-turned-wide receiver/tight end Seth Green scored two touchdowns down on the goal line by taking the direct snap in the wildcat formation and using his powerful frame to rumble into the end zone. The former East Ridge High School quarterback looks like he will be used in many different ways this season for the Gophers.
2. Freshman quarterback was calm under pressure
The Gophers offense started out slow in the first quarter, with the frame ending in a 7-7 tie. New Mexico State scored its touchdown after Annexstad fumbled a snap in Minnesota’s own zone. Instead of getting flustered, the quarterback led his team down the field to breakaway the score and get Minnesota the victory.
3. Cashman was dominant
Linebacker/defensive end Blake Cashman was disruptive on Thursday night. He led the team with eight tackles, including four tackles for a loss and a sack. Cashman played mostly on special teams last season and collected 30 tackles. The season before, he was named the Holiday Bowl's Defensive Most Valuable Player.
4. Minnesota had weapons outside
Along with Johnson’s five catches for 100 yards, freshman Rashod Bateman added five catches for 52 yards and Chris Autman-Bell made four catches for 43 yards. The wide receiving corps is different from last season, with many freshmen getting playing time and making an impact.
5. Gophers' youth movement
Minnesota had 29 freshmen play in the game against New Mexico State. The Gophers rank as one of the youngest teams in all of college football, with over two-thirds of the team consisting of underclassmen.