Quick Hitters: Gold team wins Gophers spring game

by Ben Gotz

Final score: Gold 19, White 7


A cold and windy Saturday gave the Gophers annual spring game fall weather, and the Gold team responded with a performance perfect for the conditions.

The Gold team ran for 190 yards in a 19-7 victory over the White team, thanks the efforts of its offensive line and young running backs Rodney Smith and James Johannesson.

The Gold team's defense also pitched a shutout against the White team, as the other squad's seven points came off an interception return for a touchdown by redshirt freshman linebacker Jaylen Waters. The interception, off of freshman quarterback Seth Green, scored the first points of the game, but after that the Gold team was able to move the ball more consistently behind its backs while creating a lot of pressure on defense.

The Gold team was quarterbacked by Green and redshirt junior Conor Rhoda, while sophomore Demry Croft quarterbacked the White team with incumbent starter Mitch Leidner out while recovering from foot surgery. All three backup quarterbacks struggled in the game and threw a combined three interceptions.

Big play:

Johannesson scored a seven yard rushing touchdown in the Gold team’s first drive of the second half to put his team up 13-7. The touchdown was part of an impressive day for the Fargo native, who led all rushers with 130 yards in the game.

Five Observations:

1. Defenses make plays

The Gophers defense dominated the low-scoring spring game, with four combined turnovers and nine total sacks. The two defenses also allowed under 100 yards passing in the game, and held the offenses to 3-24 on third down.

2. Backup QBs struggle

The Gophers backup quarterbacks had a chance to impress fans with starter Mitch Leidner out, but failed to do so. The Gophers’ three quarterbacks were a combined 14-33 passing for 97 yards and three interceptions, though all three dealt with pressure often thanks to playing with mixed-up offensive lines.

3. Johannesson runs strong

Johannesson had a game-high 22 carries, and made the most of them. The first year running back ran powerfully in the game, and showed off an explosive gear on a 44-yard run in the second half. Head coach Tracy Claeys said he might be the team's most improved offensive player this spring.

4. Gold team OL impresses

Paving the way for Johannesson was a solid offensive line that included junior college transfer Vincent Calhoun at right guard and redshirt senior Johan Pirsig at right tackle. Smith and Johannesson ran for a combined 222 yards on 40 carries behind the Gold team offensive line, despite players from across the depth chart seeing time with the group.

5. Carpenter states case at kicker

Redshirt sophomore kicker Emmit Carpenter made four field goals in the game for the Gold team, with a long of 40 yards. Redshirt junior Ryan Santoso kicked for the Gophers last year but may assume punting duties this season, and Claeys said he’s hesitant to have a player do both. One thing the team might try in fall practice is having Santoso punt and kick long field goals, while Carpenter kicks shorter ones, Claeys said.

Bonus: Spring game format a hit with players

Players after the game all said they enjoyed the spring game’s new format, because it increased the competition level and made it feel like a real game. Players were incentivized not only with bragging rights but with food, as the Gold team earned a full slab of ribs and mac and cheese, while the White team got just two ribs each.

Quote of the game:

“They were talking already, as soon as you come out to midfield. [That’s] always good, they were competing and I’m sure when they hand [the ribs] out after they shower, they’ll be talking also. Todays’ day was for the kids, and for them to have fun, and I think they did that.” – Gophers head coach Tracy Claeys