The Gophers will be without four starters for Saturday’s game against No. 21 Michigan State, including three who were injured against Purdue over the weekend, coach P.J. Fleck announced Monday.
Safety Antoine Winfield Jr., who suffered a hamstring injury early in the Sept. 30 loss to Maryland and missed the Purdue game, won’t play against Michigan State. That will leave the Gophers without their best defensive playmaker and the player they like to match up against an opponent’s best offensive threat.
In addition, cornerback Kiondre Thomas (leg), wide receiver Phillip Howard (head) and offensive tackle Nick Connelly (leg) – all starters who were injured against the Boilermakers – won’t play against the Spartans.
The Gophers could see the return of senior safety Duke McGhee to the lineup. McGhee, who sat out the past two games because of a disciplinary suspension, will “possibly be back,’’ Fleck said. “We’ll see how his week of practices goes.’’
Fleck reiterated that Conor Rhoda will remain the starting quarterback.
“If there was a better answer today, I would have somebody else in there. That’s not the better answer,’’ Fleck said. “He’s the better answer for our football team. He’s proven that he can run this offense very efficiently. But he’s also made mistakes. What I want to be able to say is, ‘Watch him grow from those mistakes.’ ’’
Rhoda completed 11 of 25 passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns in the 31-17 loss to Purdue. He also lost a fumble at the Boilermakers’ 7-yard-line and threw a fourth-down interception from the Purdue 27 that was returned 76 yards for a touchdown with 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter.