Gophers INSIDER JOE CHRISTENSEN
The college football schedule included two bye weeks in 2013 and 2014, giving the Gophers extra recovery time during those consecutive eight-win seasons.
Last year, there was only one bye, but it came at an ideal time, about halfway through the schedule, in Week 8, right between taxing games against Nebraska and Michigan.
This year, the Gophers (2-0) are getting a rest before they've broken a sweat.
Their bye this week comes after Saturday's 58-28 victory over Indiana State.
"I'd like to have [a bye] later in the season," coach Tracy Claeys said Sunday. "But I don't think this is a bad deal with everything that we've had go on."
Claeys said this after announcing tight end Brandon Lingen would miss four to five weeks because of a broken clavicle.
Injuries coupled with a Minneapolis police investigation into four suspended players have clouded a mostly sunny start for a Gophers team trying to rebound from a 5-7 season.
Claeys suspended four players indefinitely for an unspecified violation of team rules — starting cornerback KiAnte Hardin, second-string cornerback Ray Buford, reserve safety Dior Johnson and reserve defensive lineman Tamarion Johnson.
The police had no update Sunday.
"Break team policy — suspended. That simple," Claeys said. "I don't give a darn who it is."
The early bye week gives the Gophers a pause, while the police investigate. It also reduces the number of games three top playmakers — Lingen, Shannon Brooks and Rashad Still — will miss because of their respective injuries.
Brooks (broken foot) is expected to be ready for the Sept. 24 game against Colorado State. Still (shoulder) is slated to miss about three more weeks.
Lingen missed the Oregon State opener while recovering from a previous shoulder surgery. Fully healed, he looked like his old self against Indiana State, with at least three pancake blocks and one reception for 17 yards.
But the junior captain got hurt again on a play very similar to the one that injured Still, leaping for a pass and landing hard on his shoulder.
"I'll probably get 5,000 e-mails saying he shouldn't have played," Claeys said. "And this has nothing to do with the surgically repaired part of it."
Lingen had surgery in high school and a cleanup procedure after this year's spring game to address an injury inside his shoulder. He also broke this same clavicle in 2015, Claeys said, so this time Lingen will have surgery to insert a plate.
While he heals, the Gophers will continue relying on Nate Wozniak, Colton Beebe and Nick Hart at tight end.
"You sit around worrying about the guys you don't have and the ones that are injured, it'll drive you crazy," Claeys said. "So you just get the next ones ready to play."
Against Indiana State, the Gophers looked extra vulnerable on pass defense without Hardin or Buford. But Antonio Shenault, Zo Craighton and Coney Durr gained needed experience at cornerback.
Claeys said the defensive backs were in position but need to improve "at the point of reception."
But the offense already took a big step from Game 1 to Game 2. The Gophers scored their most points since 2006, even with quarterback Mitch Leidner rushing only three times. They're determined to protect their senior leader; through two games, he has yet to be sacked.
"Yeah, it feels pretty nice right now, to be honest," he said after matching a career high with four touchdown passes Saturday. "I feel like I didn't even play in a game, so it definitely feels a lot better than normal."
The Gophers have one turnover this season, on a muffed punt. So the offense has taken care of the ball and scored a touchdown on all nine trips inside the red zone.
Claeys simmered about the team's three false-start penalties on the opening drive but was otherwise pleased.
"I like where we're at," Claeys said.
But he'd like it even more without the holes on his roster.
Joe Christensen covers college football for the Star Tribune. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org