To the victors belong the spoils, and that’s exactly what the Gophers got on Monday, two days after their 52-21 blowout of Nebraska.
The Big Ten named Gophers quarterback Demry Croft its co-offensive player of the week and running back Rodney Smith as its special teams player of the week.
Croft, a sophomore from Rockford, Ill., had his best game as a Gopher, rushing 10 times for 183 yards and three touchdowns, including a 73-yard TD run and a 64-yard gain to set up another TD. Croft also was efficient passing the ball, finishing 9-for-15 for 105 yards with two of the incompletions being throwaways and two being dropped passes.
“Demry did a tremendous job of running the offense,’’ coach P.J. Fleck said.
The Big Ten honor was the first for Croft, who shared the offensive player of the week award with Ohio State running back Mike Weber. Weber rushed nine times for 162 yards and two TDs in a 48-3 rout of Michigan State.
Smith, a junior from Jonesboro, Ga., returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown on his way to a career-high 279 all-purpose yards. He rushed 24 times for 134 yards, caught one pass for 10 yards and had 135 yards on three kickoff returns.
“We needed to start fast,’’ Fleck said. “We talked in the locker room that two teams who are 4-5, it’s a big game for both of them. Whoever strikes first, you can take the spirit out of somebody else.”
The Big Ten special teams honor was the first for Smith, who last year earned conference offensive player of the week honors for his efforts against Rutgers, when he had 257 all-purpose yards (111 rushing, 27 receiving and 119 kickoff return).
Other weekly honorees were Iowa defensive back Josh Jackson and Wisconsin linebacker Leon Jacobs as co-defensive player of the week and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor as freshman of the week.