Minnesota football head coach P.J. Fleck gets first win, despite team’s uneven performance.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers came in as a big 20-plus point favorite over the Buffalo Bulls on Thursday night night in their season and home opener. The Gophers were ranked 50th in the nation and the Bulls 126th out of 130 of Division 1 teams. But, despite the stimulus provided with coach P.J. Fleck‘s first game and hype now surrounding the program, the Gophers disappointed. The 17-7 win proved to be pedestrian at best.
The Gophers started quickly with a 61 yard play action pass and run strike from Conor Rhoda to Tyler Johnson. This gave the Gophers a 7-0 lead. However, the Gophers struggled offensively the remainder of the night. The tandem of Rhoda and Demry Croft combined to complete 19 of 32 passes for 239 yards and a mere 55.4 rating.
Running backs Shannon Brown and Rodney Smith tallied 145 yards on 41 attempts for a sub par 3.5 yards per carry. Brown scored the Gophers second touchdown on a 1 yard run. Wide receiver Tyler Johnson was a bright spot with six receptions for 141 yards. He displayed his athleticism and play making ability on the opening score.
Defensively, the Gophers held up on the ground game. The Bulls rushed for just 51 yards on 22 attempts. Through the air, quarterback Tyree Jackson passed for 211 yards and one touchdown. The Gophers defence produced only a single sack and one interception.
The play of the special teams was also up and down. Shannon Brooks had a couple of quality kickoff returns. Punter Ryan Santoso displayed a strong leg over six tries with an average of nearly 45 yards. However, place kicker Emmit Carpenter missed 2 of 3 , before icing the game late in the fourth quarter.
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The Gophers rotation of quarterbacks does not augur well for success this season. The level of play from the quarterback normally makes or breaks a team’s fortunes over the course of a year. I cannot recall a quality team that played well with a consistent swapping of players at a critical position.
Through one game, the Gophers do not appear to have promising or notable talent on either side of the ball . Buffalo was a far inferior opponent and an underdog of nearly four touchdowns. The lackluster win by 10 by the Golden Gophers at home is very discouraging. P.J. Fleck has more work to do than perhaps he originally thought.
Minnesota will now prepare to take on the Pac 12’s Oregon State Beavers. Kickoff in Corvallis, Oregon is Saturday, September 9th at 8 pm, Central time.