The best defense, the saying goes, is a good offense. And in the Gophers’ case, an offense that keeps the ball away from the opponent is giving a big assist to the defense.
Through two games, the Gophers ranked eighth among FBS schools in time of possession, holding the ball an average of 35 minutes, 38 seconds, more than 11 minutes more per game than their opponents. They’re doing it with a run game that had produced 213.5 yards per game and averaged 4.6 yards per carry entering Saturday’s contest against Miami (Ohio).
Against the RedHawks, the Gophers held the ball for 34:31, with 7:11 coming on their opening 13-play, 66-yard touchdown march. In the first half, the Gophers held the ball for 17:14 to Miami’s 12:46 in building a 19-3 lead.
“We talked about the whole week starting fast, because we hadn’t really done that yet this year,’’ Gophers center Jared Weyler said. “It was really, really good to see that guys were coming out smoking. That set the tone.’’
Minnesota’s defense has benefited as the offense has controlled the ball and gotten early leads. With opponents playing catch-up and forced to pass, the Gophers defense had allowed only 62.5 rushing yards per game, eighth best in the nation. Saturday, Miami rushed for 91 yards, but its deepest penetration was to the Gophers 19-yard line when it scored its only points on a field goal. The RedHawks had only three of its 13 possessions reach Minnesota territory.
“We’re practicing like pros and playing like kids, and I think it really shows on defense,’’ Gophers cornerback Antonio Shenault said.
Former Gopher Tony Dungy, a Pro Football Hall of Fame coach, spoke to the team during captains’ breakfast on Saturday morning.
“Having one of the greatest coaches of all time, one of the best players at the University of Minnesota and one of the greatest people to ever walk this planet in Tony Dungy back was an honor for me as a coach,’’ said Gophers coach P.J. Fleck, who presented Dungy a game ball. “It was an honor for our staff, an honor for our players.’’
On Friday, Dungy was part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Hometown Hall of Famers program. He presented the Hometown Hall of Famer plaque to the University of Minnesota, which became the 120th “official school’’ of the Hall.
Also in attendance was former Gophers running back Laurence Maroney, who was inducted into the “M’’ Club Hall of Fame. He received a game ball, too.
• Gophers guard Conner Olson injured his left leg early in the fourth quarter and left the game.
• Redshirt sophomore Tommy Doyle of Edina started at right tackle for the RedHawks but was helped off the field in the second quarter because of a leg injury. The RedHawks also lost their two leading receivers, Kenny Young and James Gardner, to injuries.