REPLAY: Gophers 21, Fresno State 14
Upon first glance, a 21-14 final score might indicate a ho-hum football game. But that was nowhere near true on Saturday night, especially in a roller-coaster fourth quarter in which the lead changed hands twice and the Gophers (2-0) emerged with a win after a couple of spectacular plays.
Trailing 14-13 after Fresno State got a 45-yard TD pass from Marcus McMaryion to KeeSean Johnson, the Gophers rallied when Zack Annexstad scrambled out of heavy pressure and hit a leaping Tyler Johnson on the sideline for a 13-yard gain to the Bulldogs 43 on third-and-9. That set up Seth Green’s 3-yard TD run out of the wildcat formation and Green’s two-point conversion pass to tight end Ko Kieft with 3:28 left.
Fresno State threatened to tie it, but Gophers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. made an amazing interception on a halfback option pass in the end zone with 1:18 left. Winfield initially was beaten by tight end Jared Rice but recovered just in time to leap to grab the ball, secure it and land deep in the end zone with one foot inbounds. “That’s what makes him special,’’ coach P.J. Fleck said.
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Down seven points with 1:24 left in the fourth quarter, Fresno State had the ball at the Gophers 4 after a fourth-down conversion. The Bulldogs had time to run the ball but instead called the option pass that Winfield intercepted. Bulldogs coach Jeff Tedford explained his decision.
“They were playing very aggressive in the secondary coming up,” he said. “We were open, and it was just unfortunate that the ball was a little bit underthrown. We got what we wanted — the aggressive play from the secondary to come up.’’
Eating the clock
How do you shut down an opponent that scored 79 points in its previous game? Keep its offense the heck off the field. That’s exactly what the Gophers did against Fresno State, winning in time of possession 36:41 to 23:19. Minnesota was particularly strong in the first and fourth quarters. The Gophers had the ball for 10:53 in the first, highlighted by a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that took 7:17. In the fourth, the Gophers had the ball for 11:27, with a 10-play field goal drive that took 5:37 and the winning TD drive that spanned 10 plays and used 4:52.
Through two games, the Gophers are plus-21:16 in time of possession.
Counting the freshmen
After playing 28 freshmen (16 true and 12 redshirt) in the season-opening 48-10 win over New Mexico State, the Gophers played 13 freshmen (seven true, six redshirt) on Saturday.
Up next: Miami (Ohio)
2:30 p.m. Saturday, TCF Bank Stadium
TV (radio): BTN (100.3-FM)
The skinny: The RedHawks fell to 0-2 with a 21-0 loss to rival Cincinnati on a rainy Saturday night in Cincinnati. Miami couldn’t get its offense going, rushing for only 59 yards while the Bearcats gained 188 on the ground.
“The weather dictated things,’’ RedHawks coach Chuck Martin said. “We talked about how critical it would be to get the lead.’’
The RedHawks boast a potent weapon in senior receiver James Gardner, a 6-4, 216-pounder who caught 47 passes for 927 yards and 11 TDs last season. He had seven catches for 80 yards on Saturday but has yet to score a TD.