After a lackluster 17-7 win over Buffalo at home in the season opener, Minnesota roared back with an impressive and memorable 48-14 triumph at Oregon State.
Before moving forward, it’s good to look at one of the best road victories, particularly by margin, in recent years for a program headed by first-year coach P.J. Fleck.
The Gophers manhandled Oregon State on its home turf with an unrelenting running game. Minnesota threw only eight passes, compared to 58 rushing plays.
Quarterback Conor Rhoda impressed Fleck with his leadership and performance. He completed seven of his eight passes for 158 yards, while quarterback Demry Croft did not throw a pass, but he broke loose for a 64-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
“(Saturday) was the first time I watched Conor Rhoda control a football team,” Fleck said. “(Rhoda) was going to his offensive line and communicating really well, running the game efficiently. At the end, draining the clock, milking the clock properly, keeping everybody calm.”
Besides the big win, Fleck emphasized to his players before, during and after the Oregon State game to be more enthusiastic after a subdued showing on the sidelines against Buffalo.
Rhoda, in particular, was a big part of the cheering section, greeting players on the sidelines numerous times.
“The one thing about our culture: We ignore nothing,” Fleck said. “Everything is coached, and nothing is ever slid by, like, ‘It’s OK,’ because that will just fester.”
The Gophers (2-0) return home to battle Middle Tennessee State (1-1). The Blue Raiders are coming off a 30-23 win over Syracuse after losing to Vanderbilt in their opener.
Rhoda, a fifth-year senior, was named the starting quarterback for Middle Tennessee State.
“We didn’t ask him to do a ton in the pass game, but we needed to run the football,” Fleck said of Rhoda. “He executed well. He led better than he ever has.”
–QB Conor Rhoda played well for the second game in a row and was named the starter for the Middle Tennessee State game. Rhoda is the clear-cut leader in the two-quarterback battle, but nothing is set in stone right now.
–LB Jon Celestin had a team-high 10 tackles at Oregon State. His leadership and production is essential for a defense looking for an identity in the back seven.
–WR Tyler Johnson, who had a breakout season as a freshman, hauled in six receptions in the opener, and should be a bigger part of the offense as the quarterback situation becomes more settled.
–C Jared Weyler left last Saturday’s game because of a lower leg injury. His status is unknown for Saturday’s game.
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