Final score: Minnesota 27, Ohio 24
It only took freshman running back Shannon Brooks 10 carries to make an impact for Minnesota.
On his last carry of Saturday’s homecoming game against Ohio, Smith rumbled up the middle for a go-ahead touchdown with under a minute remaining to put the Gophers up for good 27-24.
Minnesota battled injuries on defense all game, which allowed the Bobcats to convert of half of their third downs. A few special teams gaffes also hurt the team, with a Craig James fumble setting up an Ohio touchdown in the fourth quarter that put the Bobcats ahead 21-17.
Minnesota's offense picked up the slack though, bouncing back from a rough game against Kent State last week. Quarterback Mitch Leidner set a career high in passing yards with 264, and the Gophers offense set season highs in points and total yardage. The final six yards by Brooks were the biggest however, to make sure Minnesota's homecoming wasn't spoiled.
Brooks scored from three yards to cap an 11-play, 78 yard scoring drive for Minnesota with just 30 seconds remaining.
Leidner completed four of six attempts on the final drive for 42 yards, and bounced back from a near interception on the drive to keep marching the team down the field.
It was over when:
Ohio quarterback Derrius Vick’s final heave fell incomplete with no time remaining. The Bobcats originally were going to try a 53-yard field goal but a delay of game penalty given to Ohio's kicker backed the team up and they opted to try a hail mary.
1. Gophers living on the edge
The Gophers three wins this season have all come by just three points.
Against two Mid-American Conference opponents at home, the Gophers weren’t able to secure a victory until the final seconds. The team will open up Big Ten play next weekend and in order to contend in the conference they'll need to get healthier and clean up some of their big mistakes.
2. Shannon Brooks adds to backfield
Freshman running back Shannon Brooks made the most of his first college touches on Saturday, running for 82 yards on 10 carries.
Brooks’ third carry of the game went for a 40-yard touchdown to put the Gophers on the board, and together with redshirt freshman Rodney Smith the Gophers rookie running backs combined for 176 yards.
3. Injured offensive line performs well
Despite still dealing with injuries, the Gophers offensive had a strong game on Saturday.
Blocking up front allowed the team to run for 5.7 yards per rush, and Leidner had good protection nearly all game and was sacked only once. The line’s performance led the way for the offense scoring a season-high 27 points.
4. Secondary hurt by injuries
One of the Gophers strongest units, its secondary, had problems on Saturday, as Ohio quarterback Derrius Vick threw for 194 yards on 27 passing attempts in the game.
Already down starting safety Damarius Travis, starters Antonio Johnson and cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun both left the game for the Gophers with injuries and as a result Ohio converted eight of 16 third down opportunities.
5. Special teams prove costly
Mistakes kept piling up on special teams for the Gophers, eventually costing them late in the game.
Minnesota muffed or fumbled three punts Saturday, and while they recovered the first two a fumble by Craig James in the fourth quarter led to an Ohio touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff Brooks also touched the ball when it was heading out of bounds, putting Minnesota at their 6-yard line instead of their 40.
Ohio almost spoiled the Gophers homecoming on special teams at the end of the game, when the Bobcats broke a big return on a kickoff in the waning seconds that put them in position for their hail mary.
Quote of the game: "I mean, I pretty much just told the guys ‘it’s now or never.’ We’ve got a great opportunity here and might as well take advantage of it. This is what we sign up for," - Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner
Up next: The Gophers will begin Big Ten play on the road against Northwestern on Saturday, Oct. 3 at 11 a.m. So far this season, the Wildcats defense has been one of the best in the FBS.