GOPHERS vs. MARYLAND, Saturday, 11 AM, TCF Bank Stadium
(info courtesy of Gopher Sports)
FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO ROW
1. Minnesota welcomes Maryland to TCF Bank Stadium (Gophers are 34-24 all-time at TCF) for the first-ever meeting between the two schools in Minneapolis. The teams have met twice previously, and the Gophers topped the Terrapins 31-10 on the road last season in Conor Rhoda’s first career start at quarterback. The only other meeting between the schools was a 17-7 Terrapin win in the 1977 Hall of Fame Bowl. After Saturday, the only Big Ten team to not visit TCF Bank Stadium will be Indiana. The Hoosiers don’t play at TCF Bank Stadium (opened in 2009) until Oct. 27, 2018. Indiana is however the last team that Minnesota beat at the Metrodome (16-7 in 2008) before moving to its on-campus stadium.
2. The Gophers have allowed only 24 points this year. The 8.0 average ranks Minnesota the No. 1 scoring defense in the nation (also No. 1 rushing defense at 59.0 yards and No. 5 total defense at 239.0). Minnesota is one of only two teams (Wisconsin) in the nation who have not allowed a second-half point. The Gophers allowed only seven points in their win against Buffalo, which was the lowest amount of points Minnesota allowed to open a season since 2006 (beat Kent State 44-0). Minnesota allowed only three points to Middle Tennessee at home, which was the fewest points it has ever allowed at TCF Bank Stadium. It was also the fewest amount of points allowed at home since 2008 (37-3 win vs. FAU).
3. Minnesota has scored 12 touchdowns this season, four of which have covered more than 60 yards (three on offense, one on defense). The last season Minnesota scored three or more offensive touchdowns of 60 yards or more was 2006 when quarterback Bryan Cupito threw touchdown passes of 67, 64 and 64 yards. Minnesota’s fourth score of more than 60 yards this year was a 67-yard interception return by Jacob Huff (10th longest interception return in school history) against Middle Tennessee. The last time Minnesota scored four touchdowns that covered 60 yards or more in a season was also 2006, as the Gophers had 99 yard kickoff return too.
4. P.J. Fleck is 23-3 in his last 26 games as a head coach (only Alabama’s Nick Saban 25-1 and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney 24-2 are better, while San Diego State’s Rocky Long is also 23-3) and has won his last 16 regular season games. Fleck’s first three wins at the U have been memorable. Fleck won his Gopher debut against Buffalo, which made him the school’s first head coach to win his debut since John Gutekunst in 1986 (before Fleck, Minnesota’s six most recent head coaches all lost their first game). Minnesota’s dominating win at Oregon State made Fleck the first Gopher coach to win a true road opener (not including neutral-site games) since 1954 when Murray Warmath and the Gophers won 46-7 at Pittsburgh. Fleck is also the first coach (without an interim title) since Warmath to start 3-0 at Minnesota.
5. P.J. Fleck, 36, and Maryland’s D.J. Durkin, 39, are two of the youngest coaches in college football. There are 14 FBS head coaches who are under 40, but only five (Fleck, Durkin, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury and Iowa State’s Matt Campbell) are in a Power 5 conference.
Gopher sophomore right tackle Nick Connelly of Red Wing spoke with MNN Sports Director Mike Grimm about his season and the game ahead: