Last season, when the Gophers went 5-7 in P.J. Fleck's first year at Minnesota, they at least could point to one statistic with pride. They committed the fewest penalties (39) and were penalized the fewest yards (340) among the 130 FBS teams.
That changed in the 2018 opener, when the Gophers were flagged nine times for 92 yards against New Mexico State. Minnesota rolled over the Aggies 48-10, so the penalties didn't come back to haunt Fleck's team.
"With the 30 kids on our two-deep that are freshmen, they are going to make some mistakes,'' Fleck said earlier this week. "They might grab when they are not supposed to, even though we are not supposed to, they might. Those are just things that we have to continue to work through.''
The Gophers cut down on the flags in their second game, committing three for 30 yards in their 21-14 victory overFresno State on Saturday night.
Though Fleck doesn't want his team to lead the nation in penalties, he realizes flags can fly when a team is playing hard.
"When you look at you're the least-penalized team, that could be a really good thing or a really bad thing,'' he said. "I have coaches that have developed me and said to me as a coach: You never want to be the least-penalized team in the country; and that means you're not playing hard enough, which, there's merit to that. But don't want to be the most-penalized team in the country because the discipline is not there.''
During the week leading to the Fresno State game, Fleck pointed to the need for fine-tuning.
"After our game I talked about the difference, I thought, of mental errors and then football mistakes,'' he said. "… For the most part, the mental part of that, I was happy with, but we definitely got to cut that down.''
• The Gophers improved to 13-3 all-time against Mountain West Conference opponents. Fresno State fell to 5-10 against the current members of the Big Ten. Bulldogs coach Jeff Tedford was 7-2 vs. Big Ten opponents while he was at Cal, including victories over the Gophers in 2006 and 2009.
• The Gophers extended their regular-season winning streak in nonconference games to 11. Their last loss to a nonconference foe was against No. 2 TCU, 23-17 in the 2015 season opener.
• Fresno State, which visits UCLA next Saturday, is playing two opponents from Power Five conferences for the second consecutive year. Last year, the Bulldogs lost at Washington and at Alabama. They are scheduled to have two Power Five opponents in 2019 (Gophers and Southern California), 2020 (Colorado and Texas A&M) and 2021 (Oregon and UCLA).
• Former Gophers tackle Jon Melander, who played at Minnesota from 1986 through '89, addressed the team during Saturday's captains' breakfast.