Yet again, the Gophers showed flaws and weaknesses. But yet again, they persevered. All three nonconference games to start the season have gone down to pretty much the last play. Against Georgia Southern, a blocked field goal returned for a score and a fumble returned for a touchdown nearly killed the Gophers. But they pieced together a final drive that culminated in senior receiver Tyler Johnson’s third touchdown of the game to seal the victory.
Now the Gophers have a bye week before starting Big Ten play to contemplate injury recoveries — such as starting linebacker Kamal Martin (foot sprain) and top two running backs Rodney Smith (oblique strain) and Mohamed Ibrahim (undisclosed) — and possible personnel changes to remedy some of the errors.
“All three of those teams circled us as their Super Bowl,” Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said. “And we found a way to win when everybody thought we wouldn’t three weeks in a row.”
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Mariano Sori-Marin fills in: The sophomore linebacker tied for a team-high six tackles, including a shared tackle for loss. He started in place of the injured Martin, as he did in the season opener against South Dakota State when Martin served a suspension. Against South Dakota State, he managed only two tackles.
Cam Wiley’s first carries: The true freshman from Las Vegas has garnered much hype from Fleck since he joined the team, and he received some playing time with Ibrahim sidelined. Wiley left the game in the second half because of a concussion, but he did manage 32 yards on 11 carries, with the longest run of 7 yards.
The offensive line’s struggles: The line allowed two sacks for a loss of 14 yards in the season opener as the Gophers rushed for only 132 yards. At Fresno State, it was four sacks for a loss of 22 yards and 146 rushing yards. Against Georgia Southern: five sacks for 45 yards and 93 rushing yards. Fleck thought the line was better from Week 1 to 2, but said after Saturday’s victory the young unit still was gaining experience.
Up next at Purdue
Time TBA Sept. 28, Ross-Ade Stadium • TV (radio): TV TBA (100.3-FM)
The skinny: The Boilermakers have endured a stormy start to the season. They started nonconference play blowing a 31-14 second-half lead against Nevada in a 34-31 loss before bouncing back with a 42-24 blowout of Vanderbilt. But TCU handed them a 34-13 loss to leave the Boilermakers 1-2 heading into a bye week before meeting the Gophers.
Purdue sophomore receiver Rondale Moore is by far the best player on the team. He put up 344 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the first two games. But TCU limited the All-America to only 25 yards on three catches.
Part of Moore’s slump could be because of a change at quarterback. Senior starter Elijah Sindelar led the FBS with 932 passing yards through the first two games but missed the TCU game because of a concussion. Freshman backup Jack Plummer took over and completed 13 of 29 passes for 181 yards, with one TD and two interceptions.