ANN ARBOR, MICH. – Gophers cornerbacks Antonio Shenault and Kiondre Thomas, who missed last week’s game against Iowa because of injuries, were back dressed with the team Saturday for the game against Michigan, and Shenault was a starter.
But freshman safety Ken Handy-Holly did not suit up.
The starting secondary was Shenault and Adekunle Ayinde at cornerback and Duke McGhee and Jacob Huff at safety.
Running back Shannon Brooks, who left last week’s game because of an injury, was not dressed for Saturday’s game. He has battled shoulder and leg injuries this season.
Running back Kobe McCrary left the game after being hit while recovering his own fumble on a third-quarter kickoff return. Coach P.J. Fleck said after the game that McCrary still was being evaluated.
Linebacker Jonathan Celestin left the game because of an elbow injury that he’s been playing through. He was replaced by Blake Cashman, who finished with six tackles and one sack.
Center Jared Weyler reinjured the leg that kept him out of three games earlier in the year.
Praise for Rhoda
Since struggling against Michigan State on Oct. 14 and being replaced by Demry Croft in the second quarter, Gophers senior quarterback Conor Rhoda has not played. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t contributed, according to coach P.J. Fleck.
“The first one to meet our team off the field, whether it’s offensive, defense, special teams, is Conor Rhoda. He’s a class act,” Fleck said.
Rhoda started the first six games of the season, guiding the Gophers to three nonconference wins before three tight losses to begin Big Ten play. He went 5-for-12 for 53 yards against the Spartans before Fleck turned to Croft.
“We had a conversation after the sixth game that I was going to make a change,” Fleck said. “He understood. Whether he liked it or didn’t like it, he understood. Very mature about it. And I have seen zero change in a negative way toward Conor’s leadership. If anything, he’s taken it and it’s made him grow, because he’s one play away from playing again. And I’m not saying I won’t play him the rest of the year at some point.”
• The Gophers entered Saturday’s game giving up an average of 18.75 points per game, which was tied for 21st nationally. That’s their lowest since ’08, when they allowed 17.13 points per game. Minnesota also entered Saturday ranked 20th in total defense, at 316.8 yards allowed per game.
• Minnesota entered the game tied for third nationally in penalties per game (3.75) and third in penalty yards per game (33.38).
• Carlos McGee, a cornerback who recovered a fumble during the Gophers’ 20-17 victory over Michigan in 1986, spoke at Saturday’s captains’ breakfast.