MINNESOTA VS. NEW MEXICO STATE (WEEK ONE)
Date/Time: Sept. 1, 2022 / 8 p.m. CT
Stadium: Huntington Bank Stadium
Series Overall: Minnesota Leads 2-1
Streak: Minnesota Won 2
Series in MN: Series Tied 1-1
Streak: Minnesota Won 1
Last Meeting: Minnesota won 48-10 in Minneapolis (8/30/18)
FIVE THINGS TO KNOW
1. University of Minnesota football begins its 139th season, and sixth under head coach P.J. Fleck, Thursday night as it hosts New Mexico State at Huntington Bank Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. with a national TV audience on BTN.
2. Minnesota is 96-36-6 all-time in season openers, including wins in four of their last six openers (3-2 under Fleck, including 3-0 vs. non-conference opponents). In addition, it has won four straight season openers against non-conference foes. The Golden Gophers are 100-31-7 all-time in home openers with an identical stretch of four wins in their past six home openers (also 3-2 under Fleck). Minnesota, which is opening a season at home for the 10th straight year, is 8-5 in home openers since Huntington Bank Stadium opened in 2009. This will be the second time that the Gophers have opened a season against New Mexico State, also doing so in 2018 with a 48-10 victory. The Aggies also served as Minnesota’s home opener in 2011, a 28-21 NMSU win.
3. The 2022 Golden Gophers will be led by a veteran unit on the offensive side of the ball, highlighted by the “Encore Four” of quarterback Tanner Morgan, running back Mohamed Ibrahim, wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell and offensive lineman John Michael Schmitz. All four chose to return to Minneapolis for a sixth and final season. Morgan, Ibrahim and Autman-Bell all rank among the best in multiple career statistical categories at Minnesota, while Schmitz is a preseason All-American by numerous outlets and is on the watch list for the Lombardi Award, Outland Trophy and Rimington Award. Meanwhile, the defense returns nine players that started at least one game last year and three of its top four tacklers.
4. Minnesota is coming off a 2021 campaign where it finished with a 9-4 record overall and a 6-3 mark in the Big Ten. The Gophers reached at least nine wins for the second time in the last three years under P.J. Fleck’s guidance. Multiple nine-win seasons in a three-year span has not happened at Minnesota since six straight seasons of nine or more wins from 1900-1905. In addition, Minnesota produced a .500 or better record in Big Ten play for just the ninth time in the past 50 years. Coupled with a 7-2 league record in 2019, Fleck is the first Gophers coach since Murray Warmath (1960, 1961 and 1967; six wins each) to win at least six conference games more than once.
5. The 2022 campaign is the sixth for head coach P.J. Fleck at Minnesota. He enters the year with a record of 35-23. In Minnesota football history, only Henry L. Williams (55, 1900-04) had more wins in his first five seasons than Fleck’s 35. In addition, Fleck’s 21 wins in Big Ten play are the most in a coach’s first five years with the Gophers. Overall, Fleck is already sixth in program history for wins and Big Ten wins, and tied for seventh in games coached (58). His .603 win percentage is third best among the 11 Minnesota coaches with at least 45 games under their helm behind only Williams (.786, 1900-21) and Bernie Bierman (.716, 1932-41, ’45-50).
Gopher senior tight end Brevy Spann-Ford caught up with MNN sports director Mike Grimm to discuss the upcoming season:
(info and photos courtesy of Gopher Sports)