Last Saturday was supposed to be the 2020 Minnesota Golden Gophers spring game. As everyone knows, that definitely did not happen. But, a guy can dream and then write that dream down on paper right? So here is a very fictionalized version of what could have been last Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.
Coming off of a huge 11 win season, it’s no surprise that the stars of that Minnesota Golden Gophers football team returned to game action in the spring game on Saturday and showed up ready to do it again. Maroon quarterback Tanner Morgan threw for 178 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead his squad over the Gold Team 31-27 on Saturday. Rashod Bateman caught one of the two touchdown passes from Morgan-a 57 yarder midway through the first quarter in which he torched Gold corner Terrell Smith and got behind safety Benny Sapp for the score. Morgan’s other TD pass was a red zone fade to tight end Brevin Spann-Ford who went up and over Josh Aune in a matchup that just wasn’t even fair.
The Gold team took an early 3-0 lead when Zach Annexstad led his squad down the field. Mo Ibrahim ran for 25 yards on the opening drive in his only action of the game. He had only limited duty for the gold team as he was out of the country for class for a majority of spring practice. Annexstad spread the ball around hitting Chris Autman-Bell for several nice passes and got a huge third down conversion on a pass to Clay Geary. The drive stalled out after a huge run stop by maroon DT Keonte Schad on second down and then a would be sack of Annexstad had the QB’s been able to be hit by Boye Mafe on third down. Anders Gelecinskyj knocked in a 33 yarder right down the middle for an early 3-0 lead for Gold.
Maroon took a 7-3 lead as Morgan was an efficient 3-4 on the initial drive. He hit Bateman for two catches including the above mentioned 57 yard TD. Demetrius Douglas caught the other pass on a slant for a first down early in the drive. Bryce Williams carried the ball four times for 13 yards on the initial drive, but struggled to break free of the gold d-line anchored by Micah Dew-Treadaway and Jamall Teague.
The two teams traded possessions the next two drives with minimal gains for both teams and Maroon took a 7-3 lead to the 2nd quarter. Annexstad had more success on the next drive hitting Treyson Potts out of the backfield on a screen for a 28 yard gain. He went deep on the next play and found Geary for a 35 yard connection to get back to the red zone. Cam Wiley would punch the ball in the end zone on two carries from the 8 yard line and Gold took a 10-7 lead.
Morgan once again was sharp the next drive. After Williams picked up 12 yards on first down to start the drive Morgan went 3-3 on his next three throws hitting Bateman on a slant for a gain of 14, then hitting Bryce Witham on a nice play action look for 9 yards before finding Seth Green for a 19 yard gain. Joe Rossi was not pleased at his D and let them hear it before the maroon team. Williams carried twice down to the 12 yard line before Morgan hit Spann-Ford for a TD on third and two to put the Maroon team back up 14-10.
They would get a chance to increase that lead as Benny Sapp would pick off Annexstad looking for CAB in single coverage and brought the ball back into the red zone. Williams was stuffed on first and second down and on third down Morgan was “sacked” on a great blitz up the middle by freshman LB James Gordon. Micheal Lantz knocked home the 39 yarder and make it 17-10 Maroon.
The Gold team got the ball back and it was placed on their 40 yard line as a 20minute drill situation was set up. Annexstad looked calm as he marched the gold team down the field hitting Geary for another nice connection. Maroon came with a big blitz on a third down from the maroon 38 but Annexstad avoided the pressure and found his check down in Potts who escaped to the 23 yard line with 14 seconds left in the half. Two throws into the end zone failed—including one near interception by Jordan Howden and Gelecinskyj would nail a 40-yard field goal just inside the right upright to cut the Maroon lead to 17-13 at halftime.
Morgan and Annestad would be done for the day after the first half. Both looked good, but Morgan cemented his status as the #1 starter heading into fall camp. He went 13-17 for 178 and a pair of tds to lead the way. Annexstad wasn’t much worse going 13-19 for 145 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Jacob Clark would take over the QB duties for the maroon team in the second half while Cole Kramer would take over for the gold team. Clark started off the third quarter by looking for Nnamdi Adim-Madumere on a deep post, but Tyler Nubin knocked it away. Preston Jelen was stuffed by Rashod Cheney on second down and Clark’s pass to Peter Udoibok was stopped short and resulted in an early punt. The Gold team took over and used some short passing completions by Kramer and a few very nice runs by freshman Ky Thomas to march down the field. Kramer would hit Michael Brown-Stephens on a slant route over the middle for a touchdown to put Gold back up 20-17.
Clark looked much sharper on his second possession. He moved the Maroon team down the field with connections to Brock Annexstad and tight end Nick Kallerup before Jelen broke lose for a 31 yard run to get the Maroon team into the red zone. After another jene run down to the five yard line Green came in at quarterback and took one up the middle for a Green Line TD to once again put Maroon up 24-20. That lead would be stretched on the next possession as Kramer was pressured by MJ Anderson and threw an ill-advised pass on the run intended for Udoibok that was picked off by freshmen safety Abner Dubar. He returned the pick inside the 15 yard line and Clark took over. After a Jelen run was stuffed Clark hit Nnamdi Adim-Madumere inside the five yard line and he pushed his way into the end zone up put Maroon up 31-20.
In the fourth quarter it was Ky Thomas stealing the show. He broke free on a outside zone toss and made several Maroon players miss and he sprinted into the end zone for a 52 yard touchdown to cut the lead back to 31-27. The Maroon team leaned on fellow freshman Jason Williamson to try and grind out the clock. He did the best he could, but the Gold defense did a great job of filling gaps and forced a punt getting the ball back on their own 34 with 1:47 left.
Kramer would try and take the gold team down the field for the game winning score, He completed his first two passes to get across midfield with 57 seconds left, but was the victim of a bad bounce as his pass intended for True Thompson was tipped at the line by Gage Keys and was intercepted by Jaqwondis Burns to ice the game for the maroon team.
The Gopher star players shined out, but the Gopher fans at the game also got to see some key plays made by young players who will in the future hopefully break out and help take the Gophers to the next level. It only made the anticipation for September 3rd and kickoff against Florida Atlantic that much greater, and would result in a summer of excited anxiousness.