Offense sputters in victory

Minnesota’s defense held Kent State’s offense to zero points during the Saturday game.

Head coach Jerry Kill looks on from the sidelines at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday where the Gophers defeated Kent State 10-7.

Liam James Doyle

Head coach Jerry Kill looks on from the sidelines at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday where the Gophers defeated Kent State 10-7.

Mike Hendrickson

Winning a game with just 10 points is not easy, but the Gophers found a way Saturday.
 
Utilizing its strong defense, Minnesota was able to limit Kent State University’s offense to zero points in a close 10-7 victory.
 
The Gophers offense was woeful, as they were held scoreless in the second half and allowed a fumble return for a touchdown for Kent State’s only points of the game. But the Flashes’ offense was nonexistent nonexistent as well, accumulating only 142 yards.
 
“We’re just playing really good defense right now,” head coach Jerry Kill said. “Offensively, it was a struggle. We did what we had to do down the stretch to win a game and beat the clock out and so forth, [but] we struggled.”
 
The fumble return for a touchdown came from cornerback Demetrius Monday, who picked up the ball and ran 80 yards after freshman wide receiver Rashad Still lost the ball by the right sideline. The touchdown made the score 10-7 in the third quarter, and both teams held from there. 
 
Minnesota’s passing game continued to perform poorly, as redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Leidner threw his first interception in 158 attempts in the first quarter and threw a second one just three attempts later. He finished with 184 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, completing on 17of 27 passes.
 
“[You can] have a good game running, good game passing, but turn the ball over, it limits what you do,” senior wide receiver KJ Maye said. “It limits your opportunities to score.”
 
Kill declined comment after the game on the quarterback situation going forward.
 
Maye was the Gophers’ only player to score a touchdown Saturday, after he caught a 14-yard pass from Leidner near the end of the first half to make the score 10-0. 
 
The Gophers struck first early in the first quarter on a 42-yard field goal by redshirt sophomore Ryan Santoso on their first drive.
 
Late in the fourth quarter, Kent State got the ball back with 1:18 left in the game after Santoso missed a 44-yard attempt, needing only a field goal to tie the game up.
 
But Kent State quarterback Colin Reardon threw three incompletions and was sacked by freshman linebacker Julian Huff to seal the win for Minnesota. 
 
Minnesota didn’t force any Kent State turnovers, but the team did hold Reardon to 10 completions in 28 passing attempts for only 63 yards. 
 
“We just grind out each game,” senior defensive lineman Alex Keith said. “Even if the offense is stalled, we’re still going to be clicking on every level. It wasn’t a pretty game, but it was a [defensive] game we like.”
 
The Gophers’ three turnovers on offense were all caused by Monday, who finished with the two interceptions and the fumble, plus four total tackles.
 
Along with the passing game, the Gophers normally strong running game did not find success at any point. Redshirt freshman running back Rodney Smith was only able to muster 73 yards on 30 carries.
 
The Gophers offensive line showed they were playing through injuries, with the team starting their third combination of linemen in three games.
 
“Offensive line has to have continuity,” Kill said. “We just don’t have any. We need to make sure to find it.”
 
The line allowed a total of nine tackles for loss, two sacks and two defended passes.
 
Kent State didn’t get the ball past midfield until there was just 8:38 left in the game, when they moved just past the 50-yard line on a pass interference call.
 
“Right now, we’ve got a defensive unit that believes, and they’re confident in what they do,” Kill said. “They’re playing very well right now.”