Two games, two Big Ten honors for Gophers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. And this week, he’s joined by teammate Emmit Carpenter.
The Big Ten on Monday named Winfield its co-defensive player of the week for his efforts in the Gophers’ 21-14 victory over Fresno State on Saturday night. Winfield made the spectacular, game-clinching defensive play by intercepting a halfback option pass by the Bulldogs’ Josh Hokit in the back of the end zone with 1:18 left in the fourth quarter. Winfield also made five tackles.
The interception was the second highlight-reel play in as many games for Winfield, a sophomore who broke five tackles on a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown against New Mexico State. The Big Ten named Winfield its co-special teams player of the week for that effort.
“It’s always fun when you’re able to compete, especially with all the work we put into this game,’’ Winfield said, “so I’m just having a great time out there.’’
Carpenter earned Big Ten special teams player of the week honors after kicking field goals of 53 and 50 yards against Fresno State. The 53-yarder tied Carpenter’s career long, and he made two kicks of 50 or longer in one game for the second time in his career.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a 53-yard kick or a 50-yard kick or a PAT, I just look at it as every time I’m on the field, it’s just another chance to do my job,’’ said Carpenter, who is 4-for-5 on field goals this year and 40-for-49 (81.6 percent) in his career. “Tonight, it was just a special night where some of those points came from pretty far kicks.’’
Gophers defensive back Kiondre Thomas, dealing with an undisclosed injury, left Saturday’s game in the second quarter, and Fleck indicated he isn’t sure of Thomas’ status for Saturday’s game against Miami (Ohio). “We’ll see. I think he’ll be OK,’’ Fleck said. “It’s just kind of a lingering thing for him. We’ve limited him in practice.’’
Coney Durr replaced Thomas and make five tackles, including one for loss.
Offensive line developing
Through two games, the Gophers have allowed one quarterback sack, which is tied for 13th nationally. They also have an average time of possession of 35 minutes, 37.5 seconds, which ranks ninth among FBS teams. Fleck sees an offensive line that’s improving as a group.
“We are developing, we are getting better and we are playing better cohesively,’’ he said. “… But we are not where we need to be yet.’’
Maryland start at 11
The Gophers Big Ten opener on Sept. 22 at Maryland will be an 11 a.m. start and televised on the Big Ten Network, the conference announced.