The Gophers have touted their running back depth all season, and they needed all of it Saturday in a 35-32 victory over Georgia Southern.
The team started off the game down two backs, with senior Shannon Brooks still recovering from a knee injury and sophomore Mohamed Ibrahim dressed but held out. Ibrahim had been the backup to senior Rodney Smith, but Ibrahim’s carries were split between sophomore Bryce Williams and true freshman Cam Wiley, making his first carries.
Smith, though, lasted only until before halftime, when he took a hard hit near the goal line. Wiley then left the game in the second half, leaving Williams as the lone rusher.
Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said Ibrahim was “banged up” from a noncontact injury in practice this past week and probably could have played, but the coaches kept him out as a precaution. Smith left the game because of an oblique strain, Fleck said, after having some trouble breathing. Wiley had a concussion, according to Fleck.
“They’ll all be back very soon,” Fleck said.
Smith still led the Gophers with 57 yards on 11 carries. Wiley added 32 yards on 11 carries. Williams’ 14 carries contributed 23 yards and a score, with wildcat quarterback Seth Green also adding a rushing touchdown.
Martin a late scratch
Kamal Martin led the team in tackles at Fresno State, but he didn’t follow up that performance against the Eagles.
The senior linebacker dressed for the game but did not play, making way for sophomore Mariano Sori-Marin to start. Fleck said Martin had a foot sprain and probably could have played, but the coaches decided to give him extra time to heal with the bye week next week.
Martin’s 13 tackles plus a pass breakup stabilized the linebacker group last weekend, which struggled in the season opener against South Dakota State. Martin missed that first game serving the second game of a suspension for violating team rules that dated to last season’s Quick Lane Bowl.
Others not dressed for warmups: freshman running back Jason Williamson (knee injury), sophomore quarterback Zack Annexstad (foot injury), defensive back Caden Fey, defensive lineman Rashad Cheney Jr. and kicker Michael Tarbutt.
Kramer now No. 2
Late in the third quarter, Gophers sophomore quarterback Tanner Morgan had his helmet come off after a run and had to leave the field. While the next play went to wildcat quarterback Green, it was freshman Cole Kramer from Eden Prairie with the nod at No. 2 signal caller. He had been splitting reps with fellow freshman Jacob Clark of Texas.
Joe Rossi has shown his creativity in his first full year as defensive coordinator. First it was his pass-rush package, where he trotted out four defensive ends on third downs. On Saturday, he used a setup of four defensive linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs.
No dancing allowed
Senior receiver Tyler Johnson earned an unsportsmanlike conduct after his second touchdown at the end of the first quarter, apparently for dancing. He did a little shuffle with Smith in the end zone.
Walk-on with pedigree
The Gophers have added walk-on Peter Bercich, who was on St. Thomas’ team last season after graduating from Lakeville North in 2018. The defensive end/tight end’s father is Pete Bercich, who played and coached for the Vikings and is now the coach of Hill-Murray High School.