Gophers coach P.J. Fleck, appearing on WCCO Radio on Sunday morning, said he’s not sure yet of the extent of running back Rodney Smith’s left leg injury that the senior suffered early in Saturday night’s 21-14 victory over Fresno State.
“We don’t know yet. We’ll find out a little bit more today and this afternoon as a lot of the imaging comes back,’’ Fleck said. “I’ll keep everybody informed. Everybody is thinking about Rodney and cares about Rodney deeply.’’
Fleck added, "A lot of people are going to have to step in and step up with the injury to Rodney,’’ he said. “It’s going to be even more of a complete team effort.’’
Smith, who has more than 4,000 all-purpose yards in his career, was injured on the third play from scrimmage Saturday. Smith caught a screen pass and gained 11 yards for a first down but stayed on the turf in pain. Trainers tended to him on the field and helped him to the sideline, with Smith putting little weight on his left leg. He then was examined in the medical tent on the sideline.
Smith returned to the sideline in a warm-up suit in the second half, encouraging teammates. After the game, Smith joined his teammates in singing “Hail Minnesota” to the crowd.
On Saturday night, Fleck said Smith suffered a lower extremity injury, saying he wasn’t sure if it was to the knee or ankle.
True freshman Bryce Williams replaced Smith at running back. He rushed 25 times for 87 yards, including four consecutive carries for 25 yards on the Gophers’ winning drive in the fourth quarter.
“I thought Bryce Williams, as the game went on, got better and better and better,’’ Fleck said Sunday. “Another true freshman thrown into a situation probably way earlier than expected and probably way earlier than it should be.’’
Redshirt freshman Mohamed Ibrahim, Smith’s backup in the season opener, suffered a left leg injury late in that game. He dressed Saturday but did not play. Fleck indicated he’s hopeful that Ibrahim will return for Saturday’s game against Miami (Ohio).
The Gophers received an added boost in their run game with Seth Green carrying 11 times for 30 yards and two touchdowns out of the Wildcat formation.