Mitch Leidner’s 1-yard touchdown run gave the Gophers a 30-23 lead with 1 minute, 27 seconds remaining Thursday night, and coach Tracy Claeys tried to clinch the game right there.
Claeys tried for the two-point conversion, but Leidner’s pass to Tyler Johnson fell incomplete. Claeys said he was trying to avoid a scenario where Oregon State got the ball back with a chance to tie the score and force overtime.
“I would rather take the chance on getting 3 yards and ending the game,” Claeys said. “That’s my philosophy on that. We practiced that, and we got our kids to believe that, too. We didn’t get the two-point this time, but the defense did a good job of getting a stop.”
The Gophers clinched the victory by forcing Oregon State to turn the ball over on downs the next possession.
Sherels hits sideline
As he stood alongside the Gophers linebackers in warmups, it was almost as if Mike Sherels never left them.
Sherels, the linebackers coach who is on leave recovering from an undisclosed medical condition, planned to attend the Gophers’ first game and watch from the coaching booth.
The 31-year-old Rochester native wanted a closer look, though. So he joined Keith Jordan on the field with his position group before the game. Jordan is serving as acting linebackers coach while Sherels recovers.
Before fall camp opened, Sherels underwent the first of multiple surgeries last month. After being released from the hospital on Aug. 22, he has been visiting the football facility.
Claeys could see Sherels needed to be around the team to stay in good spirits. The team tried to use him as motivation Thursday by wearing bracelets in his honor. Teresa Claeys, sister of the Gophers head coach, had the maroon and gold bracelets made for the coaches and players with “#SherelsStrong” on them.
Tight end Brandon Lingen (shoulder) was in uniform but did not play. Running back Shannon Brooks (broken foot), wide receiver Eric Carter (ankle) and right tackle Chad Fahning (unspecified) were not suited up for the game. KiAnte Hardin, who had an unspecified injury during training camp, started at cornerback.
Long security lines
Last week, the Gophers announced new security measures for TCF Bank Stadium, noting that each fan would be wanded on the way into the game.
The team warned fans to arrive early and brace for long lines. Fans on Twitter reported a 45-minute line on their way into the stadium.
An eye for defense
New offensive coordinator Jay Johnson said he enjoyed preparing for the season under Claeys.
“I’ve always been with a head coach that has been more of an offensive guy,” Johnson said. “So to get a defensive perspective has really been good for me.
“When he watches film, he’s kind of watching us [on offense]. But he’s really watching what the defense is doing.
“Having him in the room, and his insight, it’s been great.”