The path to the end result was not clean, it was not pretty but the Gophers begin the season with a win beating South Dakota State 28-21. The Jackrabbits really dominated the second half but for two critical mistakes along with a handful of untimely penalties. Those mistakes were too much to overcome as the Gophers made just enough plays to come away with the 7-point win.
The first half was pretty banal with one lengthy scoring drive for both teams and the Gophers scoring their second touchdown right before the half on a beautiful one-handed touchdown catch by Rashod Bateman.
The South Dakota State Jackrabbits went into the half trailing 13-7 and on the 4th play of the third quarter J’Bore Gibbs takes a muffed snap and throws an ill-advised pass directly to Gopher Chris Williamson. Williamson took the ball 43 yards for a touchdown and what felt like comfortable 20-7 lead.
But SDSU bounced back and began to dominate the Gophers for the remainder of the 3rd quarter. They scored the next 14 points while gaining 190 yards in the quarter to Minnesota’s 20. The Gopher defense struggled to slow the Jackrabbits and the offense...well the offense really stunk. In the second half the offense averaged 3.2 yards per carry and was just 2/5 throwing the ball.
But in the 4th quarter, trailing 20-21, Gibbs fumbles the exchange with the running back for a critical mistake. Winston DeLattiboudere falls on the ball on the 34. Five plays later Mohamid Ibrahim falls into the end zone and after the 2-point conversion the Gophers led 28-21 with 5:39 left.
South Dakota State returned the ball 47 yards, giving themselves great field position. But the Gopher defense showed up in the final minutes to hold off the Jackrabbits.
From the Gopher’s perspective, this was ugly. Were it not for some incredibly damaging mistakes by SDSU, the end result of this game could be very different. The Jackrabbits are one of the best FCS teams in the country and they will be competing for a national title. They played well tonight and this was a missed opportunity for them.
For Minnesota, the hype and excitement of the preseason may not be as palpable after tonight’s lackluster performance. But the team is still 1-0 and certainly has a lot of film to correct much of the frustrating play.
Kudos certainly belong to Rashod Bateman who had a strong first half with 5 catches, 132 yards and a touchdown.
Up next for the Gophers is a road non-conference game. They take their non-conference winning streak to Fresno State on Saturday night.