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Minnesota Football: Gophers Win 34-3 Over Middle Tennessee State

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Gopher defense dominates Blue Raiders as they move to 3-0

NCAA Football: Middle Tennessee at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota defeated Middle Tennessee State 34-3 on Goldy’s birthday. The Gophers are 3-0 on the season. With the win, P.J. Fleck becomes the first coach since Murray Warmath to start his Minnesota career 3-0. Minnesota led 20-3 at the half thanks to a solid rushing attack and a timely pick-6 from likely Nekton of the Week Jacob Huff. The Gophers pulled away easily in the second half behind an improved rushing attack.

Rodney Smith broke 100 yards rushing before leaving right before halftime after taking a hard hit on a pointless inside zone with less than a minute left. Fleck has a pattern of running one running play instead of just taking a knee before letting the clock run out in the first half that is unnecessarily putting players in danger. Either go for a full drive or take a knee. As Ron Swanson memorably said, “Never half ass two things. Whole ass one thing.”

In the second half, Minnesota initiated the Kent State Protocol (KSP) with a steady dose of inside zone and the occasional quick pass off an RPO read. The Gophers began the half with a 16 play, 56 yard drive that used up eight minutes and six seconds. They followed that with a quick three play touchdown drive highlighted by a 50 yard pass to Wozniak, 45 of which were yards after the catch.

Notes

Goldy on the helmets forever.

The linebackers were excellent all day. Carter Coughlin feasted against Middle Tennessee State’s right tackle all game. The sophomore is adapting well to the rush end position and was regularly in the back field all game. Thomas Barber used excellent awareness to intercept a pass that took on a crazy bounce off a MTSU’s leg, and was also active in run support. Blake Cashman and Kamal Martin regularly harassed Uruza throughout the game. Celestin had a regular Celestin game where he made all good decisions, which is impressive in its unimpressiveness.

Antoine Winfield Jr. made a number of tackles in the open field against MTSU’s speedy wide receivers. At this rate, I have grave doubts he will return for his senior year.

Nate Wozniak caught a pass and then ran 45 more yards for a 50 yard gain. I’m not sure which one is more surprising, but I loved every second of it. Hopefully this leads to him having more confidence going forward.

Minnesota takes on the Bye Week next week and begins Big Ten play the week after against Maryland.