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.
Former Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner signed with the Minnesota Vikings, the team announced Sunday. Leidner will join fellow Gophers alumni Isaac Fruechte and Marcus Sherels on the current Vikings roster. The Vikings now have five quarterbacks on the roster, with four healthy. The roster, currently at 92 players, will be cut down to 53 by the Aug. 31 deadline.
Gophers fans worrying about injuries carrying over from last year can breathe easy. Head coach P.J. Fleck said all players on the roster will likely be able to perform contact drills by Aug. 10. “Just because you're cleared, you're fine,” Fleck said. “Playing Big 10 football and at an exceptionally high level with the speed we play at, that takes a while to get used to.”
Minnesota has won a single Heisman trophy since the award’s inception in the 1930’s. Bruce Smith — the player who earned the award — died in 1967 and the trophy was sold to a Los Angeles businessman, Gary Cypres, in 2005.
His teammates call him “the stove”. “Stove because a stove in the house is just solid,” said linebacker Jonathan Celestin.