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Minnesota Football vs. Western Illinois: The Elite, The Meh & The Ugly

The Gophers continue to take care of business in the nonconference slate

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 10 Western Illinois at Minnesota

The Minnesota Golden Gophers improved to 2-0 with a 62-10 win over the Western Illinois Leathernecks on Saturday, becoming the lone remaining undefeated team in the Big Ten West.

The Elite

679 total yards of offense. Minnesota did exactly what a Big Ten team is supposed to do against an FCS opponent, rolling up 679 total yards of offense and 62 points against Western Illinois. That is the most yards the Gophers have piled up in a single game since 2004, and the third-best single-game total in program history. Mohamed Ibrahim and Trey Potts powered the ground game, combining for 209 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Tanner Morgan was solid through the air. He finished 14-of-18 for 287 passing yards and a touchdown, finding Chris Autman-Bell for five receptions and 118 receiving yards.

1-for-13 on third downs. For the second straight week, the Gophers’ defense took care of business against an inferior opponent. The Leathernecks didn’t convert on third down until midway through the third quarter, finishing 1-for-13 on third downs and failing to convert on two fourth down conversion attempts. Linebacker Cody Lindenberg was a standout, leading the team with six total tackles, one tackle for loss, and one quarterback hurry.

Jordan Howden’s interception. The defensive play of the game came in the third quarter, when safety Jordan Howden appeared to have been beat deep by Western Illinois wide receiver Jafar Armstrong. But after Leathernecks quarterback Henry Ogala launched the ball down the field, Howden was able to close the gap and get full extension as he leaped for the ball, reeling it in for an interception. It was the Gophers only turnover of the game.

Brevyn Spann-Ford’s 45-yard touchdown. Fans who were wondering if offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca would utilize the tight ends in the passing game should feel at ease after the first two games of the season. After hauling in a pair of receptions in the season opener, Brevyn Spann-Ford had three catches for 64 receiving yards against Western Illinois, including a 45-yard touchdown strike on a brilliant play-call in the third quarter.

Our first extended look at Athan Kaliakmanis. With only a minimum of 10 games left in Tanner Morgan’s career at Minnesota, life without the Gophers’ five-year starting quarterback is in the not too distant future. Saturday provided a glimpse into that future and redshirt freshman Athan Kaliakmanis was impressive, leading a six-play, 67-yard scoring drive in the third quarter. He was 3-for-3 through the air for 67 passing yards before capping the drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge for his first career score. The future is bright at quarterback for Minnesota.

The Meh

The roughing the passer penalty. The Leathernecks broke up the shutout late in the first quarter with a 47-yard field goal, but were only able to do so after De’Angelo Carter was flagged for roughing the passer on a fourth down conversion attempt earlier in the drive. It was an incredibly weak call, in my opinion, that gifted them a scoring opportunity.

The Ugly