How would you interpret this stat line if it was the only thing you knew about this game?
Yea, I know. Not what you'd expect to see for a game that the Gophers dominated on the scoreboard is it?
Minnesota came out flying on the first play, an 11 yard gain by David Cobb. It felt great and it was easy to think that the Gophers were off to the races. 2 incompletions and a failed draw play later and the Gophers were punting. Their offense in the next couple of series? A Mitch Leidner fumble and a 3 and out the series after that. Eastern Illinois wasn't able to capitalize on either play, missing a field goal following the fumble giving the Gophers life with a fumble of their own on the drive following the 3 and out.
Alex Keith recovered a fumble on the Eastern Illinois 15 and 3 plays later the Gophers were on the board with a Mitch Leidner rushing TD. It wasn't until the last offensive possession that the Gophers put together a long drive. The Gophers started on their own ten after the defense forced yet another punt. The drive included a beautiful 25 yard pass to Maxx Williams (where Maxx hurdled two defenders) and a 35 yard TD pass to Donovahn Jones. It wasn't the best pass, but Jones made the most of it and used his speed to outrun the defenders to the end zone.
Coming out of halftime, it was clear that the defense was even more focused. They forced a three and out (including a sack on third down). The "out" was beautiful, as Eric Murray executed a perfect block on the punt and Logan Hutton caught and returned the block for a touchdown. Eastern Illinois wasn't able to respond, mustering only a 6 play drive that was capped with a horrible 3 yard quick kick punt by EIU quarterback Jalen Witlow. What had started as a back and forth derp-fest was now leaning towards a dominating Minnesota win.
The majority of the third quarter followed a simple script. Shorter Gopher offensive drives ending in beautiful Peter Mortell punts would be opposed by slightly longer EIU possessions where the Gophers would give up a few chunks of yards only to utterly shut down the Panthers before there were problems. The Panthers had one drive end after another fumble recovery by Alex Keith (a turnover he also forced) and another end when Antonio Johnson picked off an errant throw by Jalen Witlow. The Gopher offense was able to capitalize after the interception, as Mitch grabbed his 2nd rushing TD of the night about a minute into the fourth quarter.
The Gophers opened the 4th quarter with another scoring drive, this time capped by Berkley Edwards first rushing TD of his career. EIU finally got on the board with a long TD drive with just under 7 minutes to play. It was far too late though, as Minnesota was well into playing it's backups. On the next Minnesota drive, backup QB Chris Streveler had 6 of the first 7 plays (5 successful rushes and 1 successful pass). The other 2 plays of the drive? A short run by Berkley Edwards and an EXPLOSIVE 42 yard TD run, also by Berkley Edwards.
Eastern Illinois scored 2 more garbage TD's in the final 2 minutes. The series included some questionable drive extending calls and a complete failure by the referees on an onside kick sequence, but in the end the scores were non-factors. Minnesota had the game in hand and ended the night 42-20 winners.
A beautiful win it was not, but ultimately that's irrelevant. Your Minnesota Golden Gophers are 1-0 and that's something to be excited about. The coming days will leave plenty of time to dissect the things that went wrong. For the rest of the night, we should all sit back and enjoy.