I know what the collective Gopher fanbase was thinking throughout the first half: not this again.
After a sloppy open to the season where the offense stagnated and the defense made two critical mental mistakes, many watching were left to ponder whether the same ol' Gophers would show up again and rev up the heart rate. Thankfully, that wasn't in the cards.
The Gophers broke it out in the second half with a pair of huge special teams plays. First, Marcus Jones took the opening kickoff of the 2nd Half for a touchdown, marking the first Gopher return for a TD since Duane Bennett in 2011. Next, it was the long arms and huge mitts of Ra'shede Hageman that blocked a Nolan Kohorst 37 yard FG attempt, which Martez Shabazz would go on to scoop and score. Briean Boddy-Calhoun's pick-6 for 89 yards with just under 11 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter was the dagger.
Eric Murray also made a splash in his debut as a starting corner, breaking up 4 passes and maintaining tight coverage on the Rebel receivers all night. The defense had a few mental lapses that led to scores/big gains, though for the most part, kept UNV's dink and dunk offense in check.
#PN9X and the Minnesota offense struggled for most of the night. The low-lights include a 1st quarter interception and a botched snap on the first GOLDEN-I formation of the evening. Receivers failed to gain separation all night, as most of Nelson's completions were of the shorter variety.
Particularly troubling was the running game. Outside Nelson's touchdown scamper off a zone read, the Gophers did next to nothing on the ground. Donnell Kirkwood left midway through the 3rd quarter with an injury after a paltry 2.7 yards per carry on 11 tries. The lone bright spot for Limegrover's crew was Nelson's running ability, rushing for the first two TDs of his career and 78 yards overall.
This is the type of game that head coaches love: a game in which you win comfortably and come away mostly un-injured but with plenty of things to work on. Without question, the Gophers have things to clean up on defense, and much work to do on offense in order to compete in the B1G.
In the end, the Gophers set a new scoring record at TCF Bank Stadium and got much needed experience for many younger players. It wasn't the prettiest of games, and though the dominance didn't arrive as expected, Minnesota did follow through and snuff out a lower quality opponent at home.