When Gophers coach P.J. Fleck approached Seth Green during fall camp about the possibility of running a wildcat formation, Green’s response was immediate and enthusiastic:
“Cool. Tell me what to do, and I’ll run it,” Green recalled Thursday night following the Gophers’ 48-10 season-opening victory over New Mexico State.
That’s exactly what the redshirt sophomore did twice Thursday, using the surprise move to score touchdown runs of 9 and 3 yards during a 28-point, game-changing second quarter for the Gophers.
That actually was a return to what once was natural for him. Green, who played quarterback at East Ridge, endured a “tough” conversation with Fleck this spring, when the coach told him he wouldn’t be a signal-caller anymore. But Fleck said he knew he would have to be creative with his young roster, and Green’s move opened up a lot of possibilities.
“It was a positive for us tonight. That doesn’t mean it’s always going to be … part of what we do, but it’s something we want to build on for sure,” Fleck said. “Giving up to be the third-string quarterback to play wildcat quarterback, a physical position, plus wide receiver, plus tight end. That takes a special individual, and I give him a lot of credit for thinking big-picture.”
Green, a one-time Oregon recruit who played his senior season of high school in Texas, appeared in one game as backup QB last fall but likely will see more snaps this year with an expanded playbook. Junior Tyler Johnson also switched from quarterback to receiver when he came to the Gophers out of Minneapolis North. He said advising Green on the change has been a learning moment for him.
“I’ve been able to help him,” Johnson said. “I’m just helping him getting better with releases and things like that. And for him to come out there and have a game like today, I feel good for him.”
Cashman cashes in
Last season, linebacker Blake Cashman tallied five tackles for loss and two sacks. In 2018’s first game, the senior had four tackles for loss and one sack among eight total tackles, six of them solo. He also added a pass breakup.
Cornerback Ray Buford Jr., who played seven games for the Gophers in 2016 but left the program after that when he faced expulsion for his alleged involvement in a sexual misconduct case, returned to TCF Bank Stadium on Thursday, starting at defensive back for New Mexico State. He finished with two tackles.
Not so disciplined
The Gophers led the nation in 2017 with fewest penalties at 39, fewest penalties per game at 3.25 and fewest penalty yards per game at 28.33. But they blew way past their 2017 averages Thursday: nine penalties, 92 yards.
Fair catch, touchback
One of the NCAA’s new rules came into play early, when Gophers redshirt freshman kick returner Mohamed Ibrahim made a fair catch on a kickoff on the 7-yard line. Any fair catch made within the 25-yard line now results in a touchback, as a way to avoid injuries on kickoff returns.