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Minnesota Football: Zack Annexstad’s first start compared to quarterbacks past

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You might want to shield your eyes.

New Mexico State v Minnesota Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Last night, we witnessed the Golden Gopher debut of true freshman quarterback Zack Annexstad. Consensus seems to be that it was a solid first start, with room for improvement. But I was curious how it stacked up against his predecessors from the last decade of quarterbacks at Minnesota. Mostly because I’m a tortured Gopher fan who dwells on the past.

Predictably, the final stat lines were nightmarish.

Zack Annexstad
First Start: 2018 vs New Mexico State (W 48-10)
Year: Freshman
Final Line: 16-of-33 (48.5%), 220 YDS, 2 TD, 0 INT

Demry Croft
First Start: 2017 vs Illinois (W 24-17)
Year: Redshirt Sophomore
Final Line: 5-of-14 (35.7%), 47 YDS, 1 TD, 2 INT

Conor Rhoda
First Start: 2016 vs Maryland (W 31-10)
Year: Redshirt Junior
Final Line: 7-of-15 (46.7%), 82 YDS, 1 TD, 0 INT

Chris Streveler
First Start: 2014 vs San Jose State (W 30-7)
Year: Redshirt Freshman
Final Line: 1-of-7 (14.3%), 7 YDS, 0 TD, 1 INT

Mitch Leidner
First Start: 2013 vs San Jose State (W 43-24)
Year: Redshirt Freshman
Final Line: 5-of-12 (41.7%), 71 YDS, 0 TD, 0 INT

Philip Nelson
First Start: 2012 vs Wisconsin (L 38-13)
Year: Freshman
Final Line: 13-of-24 (54.1%), 149 YDS, 2 TD, 2 INT

Max Shortell
First Start: 2011 vs Michigan (L 58-0)
Year: Freshman
Final Line: 11-of-22 (50%), 104 YDS, 0 TD, 0 INT

MarQueis Gray
First Start: 2011 vs USC (L 19-17)
Year: Junior
Final Line: 7-of-12 (58.3%), 94 YDS, 0 TD, 0 INT

Adam Weber
First Start: 2007 vs Bowling Green (L 32-31)
Year: Redshirt Freshman
Final Line: 15-of-31 (48.4%), 188 YDS, 2 TD, 2 INT

Some general observations:

  • Yikes.
  • The quality of opponents obviously varies wildly from quarterback to quarterback, so looking at this from strictly a statistical standpoint is clearly flawed. But I’m doing it anyway.
  • Annexstad arguably had the best start of any Gopher quarterback from the last decade at Minnesota. Weber and Nelson come close, but each threw a pair of interceptions, which were mistakes Annexstad was able to avoid in his debut.
  • It’s worth pointing out that, with the exception of Adam Weber and Philip Nelson, each quarterback saw game action at least once before making their first start. So the fact that Annexstad performed so well in comparison speaks volumes about his poise and preparation. The coaching staff also deserves credit for their pre-game prep and game plan.

What conclusions can be drawn from this? None, really. But there’s reason for optimism. Ultimately, the coming weeks will write the story of Zack Annexstad’s quarterback career, but he certainly is off to a much better start than his predecessors from recent history.