Gophers dominate New Mexico State in season opener

A 28-point second quarter helped Minnesota pull away early.

Seth Green celebrates earning a touchdown with quarterback Zack Annexstad during the game against New Mexico on Thursday, Aug. 30 at TCF Bank Stadium. The Gophers won 48-10.

Jack Rodgers

Seth Green celebrates earning a touchdown with quarterback Zack Annexstad during the game against New Mexico on Thursday, Aug. 30 at TCF Bank Stadium. The Gophers won 48-10.

Max Biegert

A 10-7 deficit in the second quarter was no match for an offensive explosion from Minnesota in the second quarter to lead the Gophers to victory Thursday.

The Gophers (1-0) beat the Aggies (0-2) 48-10 at TCF Bank Stadium to open their 2018 season. Minnesota got off to a slow start, but scored 28 points in the second quarter to take control of the game.

Seth Green, a former East Ridge football and basketball standout, got the offense started by scoring two touchdowns out of the wildcat formation. 

Redshirt sophomore Antoine Winfield Jr., a defensive back, scored his first touchdown of his career on a 75-yard punt return in which he broke several tackles on his way to the end zone. Junior Tyler Johnson added his second touchdown of the half with 57 seconds left in the second quarter to cap the 28-point onslaught. 

“I thought we accomplished everything we wanted to accomplish,” Fleck said. “I went back in a chart at what I wanted to do and we almost checked off every box.”

Minnesota’ busy second quarter began at the 11:35 mark. Green scored on a nine-yard touchdown run from the wildcat formation for the first touchdown of his college career. 

Then, out of the wildcat once again, Green punched in another touchdown. He scored his second touchdown of the night with a three-yard carry off of a direct snap to him and a fake hand-off to Rodney Smith. Green followed Smith up the hole and rumbled in for a touchdown with 3:21 left to play in the second quarter.  

Later, after a quick three-and-out by the Aggies and a punt, Winfield Jr. broke tackles and weaved his way through the Aggies’ return team for a score. 

“I felt like I really wanted to help the team out so whatever I could do to get on the field and help the team is something I would be down for,” Green said. “I told coach, ‘tell me what to do and I’ll run it.'” 

There had been a lot of questions of how the Gophers were going to use Green. Coming into the season, the Gophers had him listed on the depth chart as a second-string wide receiver. However, his 6’4″, 240 pound build along with his athletic ability allows Minnesota to use him in a variety of ways, including the wildcat they used on Thursday. 

“Telling Seth Green ‘you are not a quarterback anymore’ was a tough conversation,” Fleck said. “He’s a very selfless player, to be able to giving up playing third string quarterback and play tight end, wide receiver takes a special individual and I give him credit.”

Johnson’s second touchdown came on a 33-yard connection from quarterback Zack Annexstad, who was making his collegiate debut. Johnson made one move and cruised past the safety for the touchdown and a Gophers 35-10 lead heading into the half. 

Minnesota enters the year as the sixth-youngest college football team in the nation with nearly 70 percent of the roster as underclassmen. Against the Aggies, the Gophers freshmen made an impact. Redshirt freshman Mohamed Ibrahim rushed for 101 yards. 

Three freshman wide receivers played as well. Rashod Bateman highlighted the trio with five catches for 52 yards. 

“I’m so proud of those guys, Rashod and Chris they came out there and played hard and it looked good,” Johnson said.  “We will look tomorrow to get better but it looked good.”

Annexstad had a passer rating of 124.5 and went 16-33 for 220 yards and two touchdown connections to Johnson. He turned the ball over once on a fumble. 

“[Annextad] played a great game today, especially for his first game, I saw a lot of confidence from him,” Johnson said. 

Smith said there was a lot of smiles in the locker room, but he knows there is more work to be done. 

“Tonight was a result that we liked and we know have to get back in the lab tomorrow and prepare for the week and have a short memory,” Smith said.