Gophers' first-team offense settles for field goals

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 10, 2014 - 12:12 AM

For the Gophers, Saturday’s scrimmage at TCF Bank Stadium seemed like a replay of last year’s late-season losses to Wisconsin and Michigan State.

The Gophers moved the ball against a stingy defense — in this case, their own — but couldn’t convert those drives into touchdowns.

Mitch Leidner and the first-team offense turned three of its six possessions into field goals, but the other three ended with turnovers.

“At the end of the day, we can go 80 [yards], we can go 70 [yards], but three points is three points,” said David Cobb, who had eight rushes for 47 yards. “We want to score. We’ve got to go back to the drawing board, execute a little better in the red zone.”

Leidner and Cobb led the offense on a 19-play opening drive, but it sputtered on the 13-yard line, leading to an Andrew Harte field goal.

Leidner was 4-for-4 on third down during his first two drives, which kept the chains moving. But on the second drive, when Leidner tried hitting Isaac Fruechte on a post pattern, senior cornerback Derrick Wells swooped in for an interception.

“I’ve got to put more air under that ball, let [Fruechte] go get that,” Leidner said. “Great play by Derrick. He’s going to have a good year. Excited to have him back and healthy.”

A shoulder limited Wells last year, and he missed spring practice after having surgery. But his interception and tackle for a loss on a bubble screen to Berkley Edwards were proof he’s feeling better.

“I guess that tackle [on Edwards] eased me back in,” Wells said. “Like, ‘OK, my shoulder’s good, I can make tackles now.’ ”

Leidner completed 16 of 26 passes for 114 yards and an interception. His numbers would have been even better if not for two drops by Drew Wolitarsky.

Chris Streveler, the No. 2 quarterback, had a much harder time running the second offense, as he completed just five of 18 passes for 40 yards. Five of Streveler’s eight drives went three-and-out, and he also had a screen pass intercepted by defensive end Alex Keith.

Conor Rhoda and Dimonic Roden-McKinzy didn’t fare much better, but Jacques Perra, a walk-on from Roseville, continued his impressive camp. He hit fellow freshman Melvin Holland for about 20 yards along the sideline and delivered the day’s only touchdown with a 10-yard pass to Jeff Borchardt.

“It’s a work in progress,” coach Jerry Kill said. “At this time of the year, like it is everywhere, the defense is going to be a lot ahead of the offense. And then the offensive coaches, they get all fired up, and then they get better.”

About 2,500 people turned out to watch the scrimmage. It was the Gophers’ final appearance in public before the Aug. 28 season opener against Eastern Illinois.

Etc.

• While Harte made his only field goal attempt, Ryan Santoso was 2-for-3, hitting from 33 and 38 yards but having a 59-yarder fall short.

• Starting left tackle Ben Lauer missed the scrimmage with a sprained ankle. Josh Campion moved from right tackle to fill Lauer’s spot, and Jonah Pirsig played right tackle with the first unit.

• True freshman defensive tackle Steven Richardson will definitely play this year, Kill said, calling Richardson “an unmovable object.”

• Prized recruit Jeff Jones was at the scrimmage, wearing gold shorts, a maroon shirt and the Minnesota hat he wore on signing day. Jones, a running back from Minneapolis Washburn, has been accepted into the university, but the Gophers are awaiting word from the NCAA on his eligibility.

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