The Minnesota Golden Gophers’ spring football game at the Larson Football Performance Center on Saturday came down to a two-point conversion contest, with running back Zach Evans scoring the game-winning two-point play as the Gold team prevailed, 36-34, over the Maroon team.
Evans and his fellow Gold team members wide receiver Le’Meke Brockington and safety Tyler Nubin were named the Sid Hartman Spring Game MVPs.
The tone of the game was set from the first play, which saw left tackle Aireontae Ersery take the hand-off from Athan Kaliakmanis and rush for five yards. The next drive, Gold took the early lead on a 53-yard touchdown pass from Cole Kramer to Tyler Nubin, who made the most of his rare opportunity to contribute on the offensive side of the ball.
Evans made it a 14-0 lead with a touchdown run in the first quarter.
Kaliakmanis led the Maroon team’s first scoring drive, capped by a Jordan Nubin touchdown run to cut the deficit to 14-7. But it didn’t take long for Gold to regain their two-score lead. On the first play of the next drive, Evans broke loose for a 75-yard touchdown run.
Even after giving up the quick score, Maroon remained resilient. Kaliakmanis started heating up, connecting with wide receiver Elijah Spencer on three straight completions, each of which went for a first down. The drive culminated in an eight-yard touchdown run by Kaliakmanis on a quarterback keeper, sending the teams to the locker room with a halftime score of 21-14.
In the third quarter, Dragan Kesich’s 31-yard field goal cut Gold’s lead to 21-17. But Kesich was his own worst enemy, as he then hit a 39-yard field goal for Gold, extending their lead to 24-17.
Maroon finally tied the game in the fourth quarter on 21-yard touchdown pass from Kaliakmanis to Spencer, who ran a fade route to the corner of the end zone. By that point in the game, Spencer had racked up nine receptions for 120 receiving yards.
Gold looked to regain the lead, driving into the red zone, but safety Jack Henderson intercepted a tipped pass to put the brakes on their drive. Taking over deep in his own territory, Kaliakmanis proceeded to march the Maroon offense down the field, connecting with his brother Dino early and often to move the sticks. Freshman running back Darius Taylor capped the drive with a touchdown run, giving Maroon their first lead of the game, 31-24.
With minutes left in the game, Kramer faked a fumbled snap and then found Le’Meke Brockington for a 69-yard touchdown pass, knotting the score at 31-31. The two teams then traded Dragan Kesich field goals with seconds left in regulation, leading head coach P.J. Fleck to call for both teams to attempt two-point conversions to decide the winner.
Maroon’s attempt, an incomplete pass from Kaliakmanis to Spencer, failed, opening the door for Gold to take the game and Goldy’s Cup on a run by Evans.