Late, late, late show in Vegas goes Gophers' way

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 31, 2012 - 6:40 AM

Jordan Wettstein hit a 32-yard field goal in the third overtime after Derrick Wells' second interception of the game.

view larger photos

  

LAS VEGAS — Give them enough time, and the Gophers can fix their problems. On Thursday, it took three overtimes to get things ironed out.

MarQueis Gray overthrew John Rabe when he was wide open; Derrick Wells committed a horse-collar penalty to keep a UNLV drive alive; and Jordan Wettstein pushed a 32-yard field goal wide left, the first miss of his career.

But forget all that, because they fixed the problems when it mattered most. Gray hit Rabe with touchdown passes on back-to-back plays; Wells intercepted a pass in the end zone; and Wettstein nailed the winning kick from the exact spot as his miss, all of those heroics coming in overtime.

The result was a 30-27 victory over UNLV, the first road win in Jerry Kill's short career as Gophers coach, and a great lesson in his football team's ability to correct mistakes.

"I told the kids, that's fighting back," Kill said after he won a season opener for the first time since 2007, when he was coaching Southern Illinois. "Didn't go your way, fought back, and good things happen."

Good things did, but only after lots of bad things.

The Gophers dominated the game statistically, gaining 478 yards of offense to 275 for the Rebels while holding UNLV to only 48 yards on its first six possessions of the second half. Even the Gophers' fans had a great night, their gold shirts practically outnumbering Rebels fans among the tiny 16,031-person "crowd" at Sam Boyd Stadium.

But all the positives were overwhelmed by the Gophers' own errors for much of the night. Gray was off-target on most of his throws down the field; the Gophers committed 11 penalties for 86 yards; and their special teams had a horrible night. The Gophers punted away six possessions but averaged only 33 yards per punt; watched senior returner Troy Stoudermire fumble away a punt that helped lead to a Rebels go-ahead touchdown; and misfired on Wettstein's short field-goal try shortly before halftime.

"I'm happy with the win, but I know we've got to get better with execution," Kill said. "There were a lot of young kids that played, but there's no excuse for that. I think we're better than that, and I think we will improve. No question about that."

Despite all the mistakes, the Gophers were kept in the game by an eight-in-the-box defensive front that kept UNLV redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Sherry from getting comfortable. Sherry completed 15 of 32 passes in regulation for only 110 yards and two interceptions.

Gray wasn't much better, though, continually overthrowing his receivers. The senior quarterback was 15-for-28 for 234 yards in regulation, with one interception. His longest completion of the night, a 40-yarder to A.J. Barker, was a short pass that Barker turned into a long gain by breaking a tackle.

"I was just too anxious. We couldn't get that rhythm. Every time we got a rhythm going, we had a penalty," said Gray, who also rushed for 68 yards on 17 carries. "I was just getting too anxious with the ball. That's something I have to pick up week in and week out, starting this week with New Hampshire preparations."

Thursday's game had been remarkably lackluster before the fourth quarter, living up to the matchup between teams that combined for five victories last season. The Gophers punted three times in the first half, and three more in the second, and scored only once, a 16-yard touchdown run by tailback James Gillum midway through the second quarter.

They allowed a field goal by UNLV kicker Nolan Kohorst in the first quarter, a drive set up by Gray's interception, then handed the Rebels a third-quarter touchdown on Stoudermire's muffed punt, giving UNLV the ball on the Gophers 33-yard line. The sixth-year senior cornerback compounded the mistake by committing a pass interference penalty on the next play, and UNLV scored on a 1-yard run by junior tailback Tim Cornett -- who collected 127 rushing yards on 25 carries -- four plays later.

But Wettstein converted a pair of scoring drives in the fourth quarter with field goals, and when Kohorst matched him with 2:46 to play to tie the score 13-13, the game headed to overtime for the third time in the Gophers' past six season-openers.

Both teams scored a touchdown on their first possession of overtime. The Rebels, going first, sent Cornett around around the left corner, and after breaking a tackle, he raced past the Gophers defense from 18 yards out, just managing to get the ball inside the pylon as he reached the end zone.

The Gophers answered with a 10-yard pass across the middle from Gray to Rabe. The tight end caught his second touchdown pass -- matching his career total -- on the very next play, breaking wide open for a 25-yard scoring strike from Gray that looked like it might hold up for the victory.

"When I turned my head around, no one was around me, I'm just [thinking], 'catch the ball, catch the ball,' " Rabe said. "It was pefect."

The Rebels got to the Gophers 6-yard line on their turn, and on fourth down, Sherry scrambled out of a near-sack and found sophomore receiver Devante Davis open in the left corner for the tying score.

That sent the game to a third, and decisive, overtime. With the ball on the Gophers 11, Sherry looked for Davis across the middle, and Wells, a sophomore safety, anticipated the play.

"We were in Cover-3, I just broke back on the ball and he threw it. I don't think he saw me," Wells said. And what's he thinking then? "Pick six," Wells said with a laugh.

He was pulled down at midfield, but the Gophers needed only a field goal to win. They ran three plays to advance to the 16, then sent Wettstein in for the winner. He kicked it, then raced down the field ahead of a pack of teammates intent on tackling him in celebration.

"Any time you get the opportunity to win a game, you feel good about it," Kill said of his 1-0 Gophers. "Doesn't matter how it gets done."

  • 2012 SEASON OPENER GOPHERS 30, UNLV 27 (3 OT)

    Up next: 11 a.m. Sept. 8 vs. New Hampshire • TCF Bank Stadium • TV: Big Ten Network (100.3-FM, 1130-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cincinnati - LP: M. Latos 4 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: B. Norris 5
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 9 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Greene 4
Detroit - WP: P. Coke 4 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Allen 2
NY Mets - WP: J. Niese 8 FINAL
Miami - LP: B. Penny 6
Philadelphia - WP: K. Kendrick 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 0
Toronto - WP: R. Dickey 8 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Hellickson 2
Milwaukee - LP: Y. Gallardo 1 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Arrieta 7
LA Angels - LP: C. Wilson 3 FINAL
Houston - WP: B. Peacock 8
Chicago WSox - WP: D. Webb 6 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: L. Oliveros 3
Texas - LP: M. Kirkman 1 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Frasor 2
Pittsburgh - LP: J. Locke 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: A. Wainwright 6
San Francisco - WP: G. Kontos 12 FINAL
Colorado - LP: M. Belisle 7
Seattle - WP: J. Paxton 6 FINAL
Oakland - LP: S. Gray 5
Washington - LP: D. Fister 1 FINAL
Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 4
Arizona - LP: B. Ziegler 1 FINAL
San Diego - WP: K. Quackenbush 2
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
Buffalo 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
New Orleans 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta
Minnesota 9/7/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Cleveland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Jacksonville 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Oakland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Cincinnati 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Washington 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Tennessee 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
New England 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Tampa Bay
San Francisco 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Indianapolis 9/7/14 7:30 PM
Denver
NY Giants 9/8/14 6:10 PM
Detroit
San Diego 9/8/14 9:20 PM
Arizona
Miami-Florida 13 FINAL
(25) Louisville 31
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(7) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(19) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(18) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(23) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(2) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Washington
(14) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(13) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(15) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(7) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(17) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(21) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(15) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(12) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(16) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(9) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(21) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(8) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(11) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Toronto 12 FINAL
Hamilton 13
Edmonton 13 FINAL
Calgary 28
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Minnesota 78 FINAL
Phoenix 96
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pm
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pm
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. TBA
Sep 27 - at Michigan TBA
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Gophers in their season opener

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close