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Golden Nugz 8.31.12- Minnesota Gophers beat UNLV 30-27 in 3 OT's

It wasn't pretty, it was nerve-wracking as hell to watch but in the end- the very, very end that came very, very late- Minnesota won their season opener 30-27 over UNLV in 3 OT's. Because the game finished SO late here in the central time zone (close to 2am), there's not a ton of content out there right now, but we'll link to what we can.

The positive stories of the night were the running game and the defense. After UNLV marched down the field on their first possession, the defense was excellent at getting pressure, stopping the run, and even forcing turnovers, as QB Nick Sherry threw three picks. If you're keeping score at home, the Gophers are just one pick away from matching last year's total, and we're only one game in. I'd call that a good sign. The most clutch was the one that essentially sealed the game in the third OT as Derrick Wells picked off his second pass of the night to stop a Vegas possession, and Jordan Wettstein kicked the game-winner three plays later.

They also registered a couple of sacks- both by d-linemen by the way- and, as the Las Vegas Sun notes in their game story, hit and battered and generally wreaked havoc on Sherry and the Vegas offense all night long.

There’s no record of just how many times UNLV quarterback Nick Sherry got hit Thursday night. Officially he was sacked just twice, but seemingly every time he went back to pass — and even just after hand-offs — Sherry had to get picked up off the ground by teammates.

I know it's only UNLV, but that's what a defense is SUPPOSED to do to UNLV, holding them to just 275 total yards. The lone touchdown in regulation came after a muffed punt by Troy Stooooodemire, but otherwise they shut the Rebels down.

QB MarQueis Gray? Yeah not so much. As Marcus Fuller of the PP writes in his game recap:

This was supposed to be the start of MarQueis Gray's "breakout year," as Minnesota coach Jerry Kill put it. But the senior quarterback struggled against arguably the worst team in the Mountain West Conference a year ago.

If you didn't watch the game and just looked at the box score this morning, you'd be wondering what all the fuss is about, as Gray completed 17 of 30 for 269 and 2 TD's and one pick. But if you watched it, you did not see the confident, commanding performance we were hoping for from our senior QB. Gray was off most of the night, including overthrowing two guys who were WIDE open for touchdowns, perhaps the most aggregious of which was Andre McDonald in the second half. Not a good start for Q, but thankfully it's only the first game and also thankfully New Hampshire is on the schedule next week. Hopefully a good confidence builder.

Nate Sandell of 1500ESPN has a good story on Keanon Cooper and the team honoring Gary Tinsley. Cooper wore Tinsley's #51 with no name on the backup as a tribute, and apparently he won't be the only guy to do so this season:

Tinsley's number will be a mainstay on the field for the remainder of the year. Cooper said the jersey would likely be bestowed upon a different player, as appointed by a team leadership council, in each game.

Very cool way to honor Tinsley's memory, if you ask me.

FBT offers you a drink and some good reasons to calm the **** down, like the aforementioned running game and defense. Donnell "Kirkland" Kirkwood made a strong statement that he should be the starting running back with 13 carries for 81 yards. He looked like a completely different back from the one we saw last year, and looked like the guy we saw as a freshman before he got hurt. I'm verty, very excited for the running game if he continues to look like that.

Sideline reporter Justin Gaard emptied his notebook on the flight home early this morning.

Bottom line is the bottom line- the Gophers won, and hopefully we can look back at this one in a few months and see it as just another win on the way to a bowl game. Hopefully. Clearly there's concerns, like a whopping 11 penalties, Gray's disappointing play, and a gong show on special teams (the punting situation? Not solved. Not solved at all) but the running game and especially the defense, definitely gives something positive to build on.