The Gophers kept their streak of playing inexperienced quarterbacks going Saturday night during their 34-7 victory over Nebraska at TCF Bank Stadium.
Whether new starters or backups, the Gophers have yet to face an established quarterback for an entire game. Against the Cornhuskers, they matched up with Noah Vedral, who started in place of injured Adrian Martinez.
The Cornhuskers lost their two most valuable offensive players to leg injuries last weekend in a 13-10 victory over Northwestern. Only receiver JD Spielman of Eden Prairie made a recovery in time to face the Gophers.
Spielman connected with Vedral for a 51-yard gain in the first quarter. But back-to-back sacks followed the big play, forcing a Cornhuskers punt. Nebraska also lost freshman receiver Wan’Dale Robinson before halftime with an apparent left ankle injury.
The Gophers didn’t have right tackle Daniel Faalele available Saturday. He left the Illinois game a week ago with an apparent injury. In his absence, Blaise Andries manned right tackle with Curtis Dunlap Jr. still at right guard. John Michael Schmitz was at center, Conner Olson at left guard and Sam Schlueter at left tackle.
Defensive back Benny Sapp III also did not dress. Tight ends Ko Kieft and Jake Paulson took knocks toward the end of the game.
However, running back Mohamed Ibrahim got in, after barely playing over the past three games because of a non-contact leg injury. And not only did he play, but the sophomore scored three times, carrying 15 times for 84 yards.
Gophers coach P.J. Fleck revealed last week that freshman linebackers Donald Willis and James Gordon IV will redshirt this year after they play four games on special teams: But as far as other redshirts, he was keeping everything open.
Freshman running back Cam Wiley has already played one game when injuries depleted his position. While ideally Fleck would like to redshirt Wiley, the coach knows Wiley has the potential to play more if needed.
He said it is similar with freshman quarterbacks Jacob Clark and Cole Kramer.
“To run the game out [against Illinois last week], I put Seth [Green, wildcat quarterback] in there as well,” Fleck said. “Because I could easily put another quarterback in there, but that counts as one [game]. You just never know. So you’re constantly thinking ahead of what could possibly go wrong.”
He did similarly toward the end of the Nebraska game.
Sunday night football
The Gophers play on Sunday nights, too. At least the scout team does. While the day after the game usually involves some conditioning and cleanup work for the starters, the practice squad gets some game reps.
Assistant coaches call the offense and defense, unless some players make guest coaching appearances, such as safety Antoine Winfield Jr., quarterback Tanner Morgan, linebacker Thomas Barber and quarterback Zack Annexstad.
“Tanner comes over to us afterwards [and says], ‘It’s way harder than you think,’ ” Fleck said. “… I think it’s really important for their development to do those things. Everybody is involved. We’d have sideline warnings left and right if we had officials on the field. People are storming the field. You’d think Cal-Stanford every single Sunday. It’s unbelievable.”
There’s even a trophy involved for the MVP.
Annexstad, who had foot surgery early in training camp, was one of the Gophers’ captains for the pregame coin toss. He endured an injury against Nebraska last season, which ended up being the last game he started.