Gophers fans breathed a sigh of relief and tried to quell their rising panic after a close call against South Dakota State in Week 1. Other Power Five programs around the country wish they almost lost to an FCS team.
Because a near-miss to a lower-division team still looks better for a program’s record than a Group of Five loss. Especially when you consider these “crazy statistics” Gophers coach P.J. Fleck cited this week.
“In the last 12 years, there were 99 FCS teams that beat FBS teams,” Fleck said. “… Then you look … [how often] the game ended within seven points, it’s 210 games over the last 12 years.”
Those who went to bed at halftime of Purdue’s game against Nevada this past Friday woke up shocked to find the Boilermakers — who led 24-7 at the half — lost 34-31 to the Mountain West squad. A last-second 56-yard field goal was the difference, plus Purdue’s five turnovers.
Purdue coach Jeff Brohm told reporters at his weekly news conference that his team lacked some leadership in the upset.
“We had people take too many deep breaths and relax. That can’t happen,” Brohm said. “Has to be everybody in it the entire game for a four full quarters with everything they’ve got with no letdown no matter what the score. If we do happen to get a lead, we have to put a dagger in somebody and put our foot on the gas and get it done.”
That’s something the Gophers, who kept letting South Dakota State back in the game, can understand. Luckily for them, though, they won the turnover battle. Jackrabbits freshman J’Bore Gibbs had an interception returned for a touchdown and lost a fourth-quarter fumble that led to Minnesota’s go-ahead scoring drive.
Iowa State also endured a scare from FCS team Northern Iowa. The Cyclones needed triple overtime to outlast the Panthers 29-26.
Florida State’s opener started with promise, as the Seminoles scored 21 first-quarter points and stretched its lead to 31-13 late in the first half against Boise State. But FSU didn’t score again.
Gophers fans might remember Boise State quarterback Hank Bachmeier. The California native was a four-star Gophers recruit back in 2017. In his first collegiate game, Bachmeier completed 30 of 51 passes for 407 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Besides Nevada and Boise State, two other Mountain West Conference teams knocked off Power Five schools in Week 1. Hawaii downed Arizona 45-38, and Wyoming topped Missouri 37-31.
This week’s Gophers opponent, Fresno State, went 12-2 last year and entered this season as the preseason pick to win the Mountain West’s West Division. The Bulldogs nearly pulled off an upset of their own at USC this past Saturday. An interception in the end zone with less than two minutes left preserved the Trojans’ 31-23 victory.
That’s actually how the Gophers escaped against Fresno State last year — a game-saving interception by Antoine Winfield Jr. in the end zone. Fresno State went on to trample UCLA 38-14 the following week.
The Gophers will hope their FCS struggles don’t continue outside the Power Five.
Megan Ryan covers the Gophers and college football for the Star Tribune. Twitter: @theothermegryan E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org