Game 1 of the 2016 season was filled with mistakes for both the Oregon State Beavers and the Golden Gophers of Minnesota Fumbles and penalties and bad snaps...oh my! Eventually it was the Gophers who executed in the second half and won the game to start their season with a 30-23 win.
Offensively it was not an efficient or dominating performance but the Gophers fared well on the ground. Rodney Smith rushed for 125 yards and 2 touchdowns while Mitch Leidner mastered the zone-read and occasionally caught the Beavers off-guard gaining 76 rushing yards with 2 scores of his own.
But the story is more about how the Gophers were particularly sloppy with unforced errors throughout the game. Two bad offensive snaps directly leading to 2 points for Oregon and indirectly leading to 7 more. 8 total penalties that lead to THREE players being ejected and sustaining OSU drives. And finally a muffed punt that also lead to a Beaver touchdown, giving them the lead late in the 3rd quarter.
But even with this myriad of mistakes the Gopher defense did manage to force two fumbles on Tai’yon Devers’ sacks. Both of those short fields resulted in the Gopher’s two first-half touchdowns. They also made a number of plays in the backfield with 9 tackles for loss, 4 sacks and recorded 8 pass breakups.
When Oregon State’s offense was successful it was with a quick passing game, misdirection runs, screens and then occasionally taking their shots downfield. The Beavers accumulated 317 yards and controlled the clock, particularly in the first half. But second half adjustments kept the Oregon State offense to just 106 yards in the final two quarters, only 17 of which was on the ground. Their only points came on a muffed snap and a fumbled punt.
Sometimes points matter more than yards. Ok, points always matter more than yards. Today the Gophers were outgained, made far too many unforced mistakes and still managed to finish the game with more points and were kneeling to close it out.
Not the prettiest game, but a win is a win and this was just game one.
Finally, it should be noted that a number of true freshmen contributed and played very well. Tai’yon Devers (an unranked recruit out of high school) had 2 sacks, both were forced fumbles recovered by the Gophers. Thomas Barber was forced into action after a few linebackers went down and he made a huge 4th down stop to turn over the Beavers. Kamal Martin had a pass breakup. And Tyler Johnson had 3 catches for 31 yards.