GOPHERS at Oregon State, Saturday, 9pm
FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO ROW (courtesy Gopher Sports)
1. Minnesota heads to Oregon State for a matchup with the Beavers on Saturday night. The Gophers are 3-1 all-time against Oregon State, but this contest marks the first time that the two teams will play in Corvallis, Ore. The Gophers opened 2016 with a 30-23 win last season against the Beavers (Minnesota also won in 1954 and 1981). The 2016 victory was Minnesota’s first win against a Pac-12 team since Dec. 31, 2003, when it beat Oregon 31-30 in the Sun Bowl (Minnesota also beat Washington State in the 2016 Holiday Bowl). The win was the first for Minnesota – and snapped a five-game losing streak – in the regular season against a Pac-12 team since it beat California 32-23 in 1987.
2. Minnesota is playing a rare game in the Pacific Time Zone this weekend against Oregon State. The Gophers did beat Washington State in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego last season, but before that their last game in the Pacific Time Zone was a 30-27 triple-overtime win at UNLV on Aug. 30, 2012. Minnesota’s last regular season game in the Pacific Time Zone was a 19-17 loss at USC on Sept. 3, 2011.
3. Minnesota is coached by P.J. Fleck who is in his first year leading the Gophers. Fleck, who is the second youngest coach in the Power 5 (Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley is the youngest) was named the 30th head coach in school history when he was appointed to the post on Jan. 6, 2017. The Gophers beat Buffalo 17-7 to open the season and in doing so made Fleck the first Gopher head coach to win his debut since John Gutekunst led the Gophers to a 31-7 win against Bowling Green in 1986. Before Fleck, Minnesota’s six most recent head coaches all lost their first game.
4. P.J. Fleck, who was named Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year in 2014 and 2016, and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh are the only Power Five conference coaches who have both played and coached in the NFL. Fleck (played for San Francisco and coached receivers for Tampa Bay), Harbaugh and East Carolina’s Scottie Montgomery are the only coaches in the FBS who have played and coached in the NFL.
5. Minnesota entered the 2017 season with the least experienced quarterbacks among any Power 5 team, which is one of the reasons why both Conor Rhoda and Demry Croft played against Buffalo. Prior to Buffalo, Rhoda and Croft combined to make eight appearances and one start during their career. South Carolina was the only other Power 5 school whose quarterbacks also combined to make eight appearances, but they had seven starts on their roster. The Gophers are one of the youngest teams in the nation as 52 of their 114 players (45.6%) are freshmen or redshirt freshmen. There are 79 underclassmen (69.2%) on the roster, and Minnesota has only 14 players (4 on offense, 6 on defense and 4 on special teams) who have started 10 games or more in their career. Steven Richardson leads the team (not including specialists) with 33 starts, while Rodney Smith paces the offense with 20.
Gopher punter Ryan Santoso sat down with MNN Sports Director Mike Grimm: