Well that was fun and surprising... and then stressful and frustrating... and then euphoric. Just your casual Friday night football game at TCF Bank Stadium. Ultimately, despite a near disastrous fourth quarter, the Minnesota Golden Gophers prevailed over the Indiana Hoosiers, 38-31, to claim their first conference victory of the season.
Now what are we supposed to do with ourselves on Saturday?
Tanner Morgan. 17-of-24 for 302 passing yards and three touchdowns. Not bad for the first start of his college career. It was far from perfect — that fourth quarter interception was an egregious mistake and he all but disappeared, along with the rest of the offense, for most of the second half — but the redshirt freshman quarterback played well enough to lead the Gophers to victory, and certainly made things interesting for when Zack Annexstad is cleared to return.
Tyler Johnson. The Gophers’ top wideout reached a number of milestones last night en route to 102 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Johnson notched his 100th career reception, which came on an 18-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, and tallied his fourth straight game with at least 100 yards receiving, tying Eric Decker’s school record.
Shannon Brooks. I can’t say I expected to see Brooks back in action for this game, but with Mohamed Ibrahim sidelined for reasons unknown, the senior running back was inserted into the backfield and made the most of his unexpected season debut. There were more than a few setbacks — more on those later — but Brooks finished the night with an impressive 22 carries for 154 yards and one touchdown. Fingers crossed we’ll see more of him this season.
Jacob Huff. The senior defensive back was all over the field last night, racking up seven tackles and making a diving interception in the fourth quarter to stop the Hoosiers offense.
Rashod Bateman's game-winning 67-yard touchdown. Thank you, God.
Gopherguy05. The TDG staff tends to commiserate together during games via Slack, and gopherguy05 is frequently the first to proclaim the sky is falling at the first sign of adversity. But while the rest of the staff was banging our heads against the wall in the fourth quarter as the Gophers’ collapse unfolded, it was gopherguy05 who wrote, and I quote, "Can we be positive for just a few seconds." That's how you keep your oar in the water.
P.J. Fleck's custom Coke bottle at the postgame presser. Is it a bit much? Eh, maybe. But is it absolutely on brand for Fleck? One hundred percent.
PJ Fleck has a customized Coke bottle that says "MAHturity." pic.twitter.com/M0G2Cih43k— Tyler Mason (@tylermason21) October 27, 2018
The Gopher defense. To their credit, the defense performed... well for the first three quarters of the game. Minnesota limited the Indiana offense to three field goals through their first seven offensive possessions of the game, but it was admittedly difficult at times to determine whether more credit was owed to the Gophers’ defense or the Hoosiers’ offense. Predictably, in part due to three fourth quarter turnovers courtesy of the Gopher offense, Minnesota proceeded to collapse in the fourth quarter, allowing Indiana to erase a 31-9 deficit. The Gopher defense looked completely out of sorts as the Hoosiers gashed them for yards at a time.
In the end, Minnesota got it done on defense, forcing a three-and-out late in the fourth quarter to set up the Gophers’ game-winning touchdown drive. And of course it was Carter Coughlin who strip sacked Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey to seal the game.
Don’t get comfortable, Robb Smith.
Turnovers. “The ball is the program.” We’ve heard it once, if we’ve heard it a thousand times. The Gophers’ failure to treat the ball like the program nearly cost them dearly last night, as Shannon Brooks fumbled twice, Bryce Williams fumbled once, and Tanner Morgan threw an interception. Three of those turnovers came in the fourth quarter, when the Hoosiers were able to mount their comeback. The field conditions were certainly a factor, but Indiana had to play under the same conditions and weren’t nearly as careless with the football.
Injuries. It was a big night for Johnson and Brooks... until it wasn’t. Johnson quietly disappeared in the second half and was never heard from again. In the postgame presser, Fleck said Johnson is “day-to-day” with an undisclosed injury. Brooks dropped to the ground in the fourth quarter when his knee buckled — not the one that needed surgery during the offseason, thankfully — and he did not return to the game. The severity of his injury is unknown, but Fleck said “they’ll find out.”