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Minnesota Football vs New Mexico State: Postgame Exit Survey

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Let’s dwell on the past for a moment before bracing ourselves for the harsh reality of Fresno State

NCAA Football: New Mexico State at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Returning for another season of Golden Gopher football are our postgame exit surveys, where the brilliant reasonably well-informed minds of The Daily Gopher share their final thoughts on the game. Today, we close the book on the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ 48-10 season-opening victory over New Mexico State Aggies. More of that, please.

What is your Tweet-length (140 280 characters or less) summary of the Gophers’ 48-10 victory over New Mexico State?

GopherNation: Great mix of mistakes put on film to be corrected, along with things done well to gain some confidence.

GoAUpher: Haikus are back y'all!

_Slow start not ideal._

_Zack Attack came on strong._

_Aggies? They very bad._

gopherguy05: ‘Twas ugly early, but in the end New Mexico State was who we thought they were and it was pretty easy. 1-0.

IowaGopher: Minnesota took care of business against an inferior opponent in a game from which I’m hesitant to draw any real conclusions.

mowe0018: Margin of victory solid. Skill positions have potential. I was mildly encouraged.

To borrow a Fleck-ism, who is your pick for “Nekton of the Week” from the game?

GopherNation: Rodney Smith was a workhorse and, despite getting his touchdowns vultured (AGAIN and AGAIN), he looked elite out there.

GoAUpher: I'd normally say Blake Cashman or Rodney Smith usually, but I'll go with Antoine Winfield Jr. because daaaaaaaammmmmmmn.

gopherguy05: I’ll give it to Blake Cashman. He was everywhere on the field Thursday night. If he can play like that all season, this linebacker group will be Top 3 in the Big Ten.

IowaGopher: I’m with GopherNation. Get Rodney Smith in the end zone. He does all the work and then Seth Green comes in take the points? That ain’t right.

mowe0018: I’ll go with the easy pick of Rodney Smith. Looked like the Rodney Smith we all know and love.

How would you grade the performance of quarterback Zack Annexstad in the first start of his college career?

GopherNation: I give him a B+ when graded on a curve. Were he a senior, three-year starter, I would not be pleased with Thursday’s performance. But for a true freshman, making his first career start, I think he played well. He was clearly not comfortable early but he settled down beautifully. His 2nd quarter was outstanding. The second half? Not so much, but he is getting used to the speed of the college game. I have no doubt he’ll continue to improve with more experience.

GoAUpher: I was pleased, given everything. He can't stay at this level if we hope to sustain success later in the year, but for his first start I think it's a solid B/B+.

gopherguy05: Adequate, which frankly is really all you can ask for from a freshman walk-on. He struggled early, but so did the entire team. The second quarter was a thing of beauty, and then he struggled a bit again when it looked like they tried a few new things with a huge lead. I’ll give it a solid B- with plenty of room for improvement, but it could have been a hell of a lot worse.

IowaGopher: It was a better performance than either quarterback — Conor Rhoda or Demry Croft — was able to deliver all of last season. I’ll take it. He’ll need to continue to develop, but it was a promising first start for a true freshman “walk-on.”

mowe0018: I was pretty pleased overall. The mishandled snap was really lame but I thought he looked pretty composed on a lot of those timing throws. The deep ball timing could use some work but the ball looked good out of his hand. I’m interested to see how he progresses if protection is decent.

Who will have more touchdowns by the end of this season: Rodney Smith, Tyler Johnson, or Seth Green?

GopherNation: Tyler Johnson. He had 13 targets on 33 pass attempts by Annexstad. Some combination of the staff calling plays for Johnson, Annexstad trusting the junior, and Johnson getting really good at getting open will result in his getting targets inside the Case IH Red Zone. Rodney will get his, but too many vultures.

GoAUpher: Tyler.

gopherguy05: I’m going to say Tyler. Rodney has a knack for doing the heavy lifting and then getting vultured near the red zone. I think Seth Green will be used a decent amount in the red zone, but it’s fairly obvious Tyler is the #1 target all over the field.

IowaGopher: Because everyone else is riding the Tyler train, I’ll go with Seth Green. I’m convinced that he will have at least one touchdown in all three facets — rushing, passing, and receiving — by the end of the season. Start the Heisman campaign now.

mowe0018: It looks like Tyler Johnson will get a lot of looks in the red zone. It should be pretty close between Smith and Johnson but gun to my head, come conference time Rodney will have the ball in his hands a lot. I’ll go with the senior.

The Gophers showcased a handful of young playmakers on offense. Which of them impressed you most?

GopherNation: I think we are going to really like the combination of Annexstad to Bateman for the next 4 years. Bateman is really smooth on the field and just naturally gifted. As he gets smarter on the field and learns to work over defensive backs like Johnson does, he’s going to be an great receiver over his career.

GoAUpher: I heart Bateman. That is all.

gopherguy05: Rashod Bateman is going to be an absolute stud. You can tell from his first game that he has the “it” factor. Give him a full season to get chemistry with his quarterback and watch the hell out.

IowaGopher: I was most looking forward to seeing the back-up running backs in action, to get a better idea of who will carry the load with Rodney this season and then with Shannon Brooks next year. Mohamed Ibrahim did not disappoint, and I’m hoping he and Bryce Williams can find some carries moving forward to keep Rodney fresh.

mowe0018: Chris Autman-Bell being competent is an excellent harbinger for the Gophers. I like the fact that he looked quite accomplished. Him plus the aforementioned stud Bateman, Tyler Johnson, and an additionally young and decent Demetrius Douglas makes for a promising receiving corps.

The Gophers’ defense looked solid in the box score. But on the field, are there vulnerabilities that concern you?

GopherNation: Not yet. I’m not exactly beaming with confidence, but I’m not concerned with vulnerabilities yet. New Mexico State threw the ball nearly 60 times and much of their offense was about getting the ball out quickly. The defense tackled well, got some pressure at times and ultimately only gave up 10 points (7 of which came when NMSU got the ball on the Gopher 12).

GoAUpher: Like I said in the Rapid Recap, I'm hoping we'll see improved pressure from front four and less soft coverage as the season progresses.

gopherguy05: They still looked to struggle to get a pass rush from just the defensive line. That will hurt when we play teams that can hurt us when we blitz and don’t get home. I still am not a fan of the bend-but-don’t-break pass coverage on the outside, that lets teams dink and dunk up the field on us in seven-yard chunks either. But unfortunately that may be inevitable until you can develop a pass rush.

IowaGopher: I cannot describe in words how it will make me feel when the day comes that the Gophers are able to generate a pass rush without having to dial up a blitz. But I’m reserving judgment until next week, when the defense will face a real challenge.

mowe0018: Depth is the ultimate concern. I think our first 22 are reasonably decent and will keep us in games, but when injuries inevitably hit the team in the grind of the Big Ten, I foresee the defense hurting against the elite of Wisconsin and Ohio State.