Good morning in a beautiful sunny day from Maryland Stadium in College Park, where the Gophers open the Big Ten season against Maryland at 11 a.m. Central (BTN). After a solid nonconference season that featured three home wins, the Gophers will try for a 4-0 start in their first road game. It’ll be interesting to see how a Gophers team with talented true freshmen at offensive skill positions fares in its first road experience.
Coach P.J. Fleck’s team won’t be facing an overly hostile environment in College Park. The Terrapins announced an attendance of only 32,057 for last week’s game against Temple, and they’ve averaged just less than 40,000 per home game in the 2016 and ’17 seasons. Two years ago when the Gophers visited Maryland, the game drew 41,465.
The Gophers are honoring Nick Connelly, the former offensive tackle who died Wednesday at 22 after a battle with a rare form of cancer, by wearing neon green wristbands and a helmet decal. Connelly started five games last year before retiring from football because of concussions. The Gophers also have a helmet decal honoring Maryland offensive tackle Jordan McNair, who died of heatstroke following an offseason workout.
A story line to watch in today’s game is how the Gophers run defense fares. Minnesota ranks sixth nationally, allowing 72 rushing yards per game through the nonconference season. Last year, it allowed only 59 rushing yards per game in nonconference play before Maryland ran for 262 in the Big Ten opener. That carried over to the rest of the Big Ten season, when opponents ran for 209.9 yards per game against the Gophers.
Today’s game also marks the homecoming for a couple of Gophers. Defensive end Winston DeLattiboudere is from Baltimore and running back Mohamed Ibrahim is from Olney, Md. Ibrahim didn’t play in the past two games because of left leg injury, but Fleck said he should return today. Ibrahim was warming up with the first team, along with freshman Bryce Williams.