Gophers 17, Buffalo 7
The recap: The P.J. Fleck Era of Gophers football opened with fanfare Thursday night, but the game itself did not follow the path of a predicted Minnesota blowout. The Gophers got a 61-yard TD connection from Conor Rhoda to receiver Tyler Johnson and a 1-yard TD run by Shannon Brooks in the first quarter. Up 14-7 at halftime, Minnesota rode its defense and a late field goal to win.
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Big play to T.J.
The 61-yard Rhoda-to-Johnson connection was the longest TD pass for the Gophers since a 63-yarder in 2012, a span that covers 57 games. Johnson finished with six catches for 141 yards, matching his yardage total for all of 2016. “He’s not the fastest guy in the world, but he’s a gamer,’’ Rhoda said.
Like father, like son
Fleck could barely contain himself talking about defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr., who made seven tackles, had one sack, broke up two passes and blocked a field-goal attempt.
“I don’t want to say he’s like his old man, because I don’t know his old man, but I remember him playing,’’ the coach said, referring to the former Vikings Pro Bowl defensive back. “… Gosh, is he special. He’s all over the field, and we’re going to have to do more things with him. You’ll probably see him at corner, see him at safety, see him at that nickelback position. He’s gonna be everywhere.’’
Thursday’s announced crowd of 43,224 was the lowest for a season opener in the nine-year history of TCF Bank Stadium, and that total was aided by about 5,000 free tickets distributed to incoming freshmen. The previous low was 44,217 in 2013 against UNLV.
Up next: at Oregon State
9 p.m. Sept. 9, Reser Stadium
TV; radio: Fox Sports 1; 100.3-FM
Records: Gophers 1-0, Oregon State 0-1
The skinny: The Beavers, who fell 30-23 to the Gophers last year in the opener at TCF Bank Stadium, opened their 2017 season with a 58-27 loss at Colorado State last Saturday. The Rams tore through Oregon State’s defense for 525 yards and scored 27 points off turnovers. Beavers QB Jake Luton passed for 304 yards but threw three interceptions. On Saturday, Oregon State plays host to Portland State, which lost 20-6 at BYU last week.