Gophers senior linebacker Kamal Martin was not in pads for Thursday’s season-opening 28-21 victory over South Dakota State, in a continuation of last year’s punishment for a violation of team rules.
Martin, a Burnsville native who has 111 career tackles, also missed the team’s bowl game in December.
“If you don’t do the right things, you don’t play,” coach P.J. Fleck said. “I’ve said that from Day 1. It’s an extension from last year, and he’ll be available next week.”
The depth chart listed Martin as a starter, but sophomores Mariano Sori-Marin and Thomas Rush filled his spot.
Some other inactives: quarterback Zack Annexstad (right foot), receiver Jornell Brooks II (right arm in sling), running back Jason Williamson (knee), receiver Erik Gibson, defensive back Caden Fey, defensive lineman Rashad Cheney Jr. and kicker Michael Tarbutt.
Fleck acknowledged that defensive end Carter Coughlin is battling an injury but noted that he was healthy enough to return to the field late in Thursday’s win.
Backup QB question
Warmups weren’t very revealing when it came to figuring out who is Tanner Morgan’s backup. True freshmen Jacob Clark and Cole Kramer both took second-team reps.
“They grew a ton,” offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca said this week. “When Zack went down, things changed for them. And I love their approach and their attitude. It didn’t seem to be too big, the stage for them. They definitely improved every single day, their grasp on the system mentally and physically with it. A lot was thrown out, especially when you go up against our own defense. The multitude of different looks that Joe [Rossi, defensive coordinator] presents for a quarterback is very difficult.”
Former Gophers track star Temi Ogunrinde has her sights set on the 2020 Olympics, but Thursday she was cheering for both sides with her alma mater hosting South Dakota State.
Ogunrinde, an All-America in the hammer throw last season, has a younger brother, Tolu, who plays defensive end for the Jackrabbits. The 6-1, 265-pound junior was listed at No. 2 on the depth chart.
The Ogunrinde siblings were standout athletes at Cottage Grove. At the U, Temi set school and Big Ten records in the hammer throw. She became the first female thrower to win three straight conference titles.
True freshman Michael Lantz appeared to have won the starting placekicker job, trying all three of the Gophers’ extra-point kicks. He made the first and third but missed in the second quarter. The Georgia native was competing with redshirt freshman Brock Walker, a South Dakota native.
The Gophers debuted a fan amenity for the opener. For those who weren’t tailgating or still stuck in traffic, the Gameday Gopher Hour provided food and drink specials for early arrivers.
Starting at 5:30 p.m., fans steadily populated the West Plaza for $2 hot dogs, $4 popcorn, $5 beer and $6 wine. The event lasted until a half-hour before kickoff.
This will be an option for all seven home games.
New test for Morgan
Morgan started six games last season, but this was his first start in a season opener. That’s a whole new set of nerves.
“Just getting them to relax out there and play the game and not overthink things,” Ciarrocca said of his advice to Morgan. “As a quarterback, you’ve got to do all your thinking before the ball’s snapped. Once the ball’s snapped, there’s not a more reactionary position in the game of football than the quarterback position. So just trust himself.”
Staff writer Marcus Fuller contributed to this report.