Replay: Gophers 34, Middle Tennessee 3

The recap

The Gophers used a familiar formula — a ball-hogging running game and a strong defense — to eventually pull away against a Middle Tennessee team that was missing standout quarterback Brent Stockstill and lost star receiver Richie James to an ankle injury in the first half. A third consecutive second-half shutout by the defense helped the Gophers improve to 3-0 heading into their bye week before the Big Ten season begins Sept. 30 against Maryland.

“I thought all three phases played really well, except for the offense in the first half,” Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said. “I thought we got it going in the second half.”

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Passes to tight ends were a big part of the Gophers offense under the Jerry Kill/Tracy Claeys coaching regime, but entering Saturday that position hadn’t been featured as much under Fleck and offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca.

That changed a bit against Middle Tennessee, with tight ends Nate Wozniak and Brandon Lingen responsible for three of Conor Rhoda’s 11 completions. The highlight was the 6-10 Wozniak tight-roping down the sideline for a 50-yard gain early in the fourth quarter to set up the Gophers’ final touchdown.

Winning ways

Fleck improved his coaching record to 16-1 over the past two seasons, including a 13-1 mark at Western Michigan last year. He also has won his past 16 regular-season games and hasn’t lost a regular-season game since Western Michigan fell 27-19 at Northern Illinois on Nov. 18, 2015.

Green sees action

Redshirt freshman quarterback Seth Green, who was moved up to the backup spot following the announcement that Demry Croft wouldn’t be with the team on Saturday, saw action late in the fourth quarter but did not attempt a pass. The bye week should enable the Gophers to get Green increased practice reps ahead of the Big Ten opener.

Up next: Maryland

Sept. 30, TCF Bank Stadium, time and TV TBD

The Terrapins (2-0) caught the nation’s attention with their 51-41 victory over then-No. 23 Texas in Austin in the season opener, and followed that up with a 63-17 win over Towson, an FCS-level team. The victory over the Longhorns was costly, however, because Maryland lost starting quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome for the season because of a torn knee ligament. True freshman Kasim Hill took over for Pigrome against Towson and went 13-for-16 for 163 yards and two TDs and rushed five times for 41 yards. Maryland also boasts a big-play threat in running back Ty Johnson, who has rushed 17 times for 256 yards (a 15.1-yard average) and three TDs this season. The Terps were idle this weekend and play host to Central Florida on Saturday.

Randy Johnson