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Minnesota Football vs. Colorado: The Elite, The Meh & The Ugly

Thanks for visiting, Mike Sanford Jr.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 17 Colorado at Minnesota

The Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-0) closed the book on their non-conference schedule in dominant fashion on Saturday, burying the Colorado Buffaloes (0-3) in a 49-7 rout.

The Elite

Mohamed Ibrahim. Death, taxes, and Mohamed Ibrahim rushing for 100 yards or more. The Gophers’ star running back blew past the century mark for the 12th straight game and scored three touchdowns to tie Darrell Thompson’s school record for career rushing touchdowns (40). After rushing for 202 yards and averaging 8.8 yards per carry against the Buffaloes, Ibrahim now has 464 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the year.

Tanner Morgan. Minnesota’s sixth-year starting quarterback had three touchdowns through the air Saturday and all three of them were impressive throws, from the 39-yard dime he dropped to Chris Autman-Bell down the sideline to the perfect back shoulder throw he made to Dylan Wright in the corner of the end zone. In spite of a rough stretch in the second quarter, Morgan had a solid afternoon, finishing 11-of-16 for 157 passing yards with the aforementioned touchdowns.

Clay Geary’s first career touchdown. It took until his seventh year in the program, but the former walk-on wide receiver finally found pay dirt. Geary caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Morgan in the third quarter, making an impressive catch in the corner of the end zone.

Terell Smith’s corner blitz. On the Buffaloes’ first offensive play of the game, defensive coordinator Joe Rossi dialed up a cornerback blitz, giving Terell Smith a clear path to Colorado quarterback J.T. Shrout. Smith sacked Shrout and forced a fumble, which was then recovered by defensive end Jalen Logan-Ledding. Minnesota capitalized on the turnover two plays later, scoring on an Ibrahim touchdown run to extend their lead to 14-0.

The Gopher defense. Smith’s strip sack set the tone for another suffocating effort by the the Gopher defense. Prior to the fourth quarter, at which point the defense consisted of second- and third-teamers, Minnesota had shut out Colorado for three quarters, limiting their offense to 34 passing yards and 57 rushing yards. The Buffaloes may have the worst offense of any Power 5 program this season, but the Gophers never gave them a chance to rise above that.

Taking care of business in non-conference play. A year removed from the loss to Bowling Green, which snapped the program’s 21-game winning streak against non-conference opponents, Minnesota has looked like a team on a mission for the first three weeks of the season, outscoring their overmatched opponents by a combined score of 149-17. Say what you want about the quality of opponents, but you can’t say the Gophers haven’t taken care of business.

The Meh

Trey Potts. I don’t know how others felt, but for the first time this season, the ground game looked markedly different to me when Potts subbed in for Ibrahim. He churned out 51 yards at a clip of 3.9 yards per carry, but it was his most workmanlike effort of the season. Granted, I thought the offensive line struggled at times to consistently clear running lanes, especially when Colorado started blitzing to try and get stops in the backfield. But Potts never really seemed to find a groove, for whatever reason. I suppose we’re all entitled to an off day now and then.

Penalties. With four penalties in the first half, I figured P.J. Fleck would not be a happy camper in the locker room at halftime. Sure enough, the Gophers didn’t draw a single flag in the second half.

The Ugly

Injuries. Late in the second quarter, the sixth-year senior crumpled to the turf trying to catch a pass on a crossing route, visibly in pain as he clutched his knee. Autman-Bell had to be helped off the field by a pair of trainers, taking great care not to put weight on his right leg. I’m not going to speculate — and Fleck provided no update after the game — but your heart breaks for Autman-Bell if this is the end of his season, because it would also mean an end to his career at Minnesota. He returned for a sixth year in hopes of finally producing the breakout season that has long eluded him. If this is the end, it’s yet another reminder of how cruel this sport can be.

Left guard Axel Ruschmeyer also exited the game in the first half and did not return, though Fleck did offer a succinct postgame update on his status: “He’s okay.”

The interception in the red zone. You never want to turn the ball over, but turning the ball over in the red zone and squandering a scoring opportunity is especially bad. Brevyn Spann-Ford should have caught the pass from Morgan that went off his hands and into the arms of Colorado defensive back Isaiah Lewis inside the red zone in the first quarter. It didn’t end up hurting them when all was said and done, but that may not be the case the next time it happens.

Mark Crawford’s punt. Crawford has only had the opportunity to punt a total of three times through the Gophers’ first three games. Unfortunately, the third time was most certainly not the charm. His second quarter punt against Colorado went only 24 yards, allowing the Buffaloes to take over at the Gophers’ 49-yard line. Minnesota isn’t going to win many field position battles in the Big Ten if Crawford can’t flip the field more consistently.