Gophers defense continues to thrive under Joe Rossi as they take down Maryland

The defense has only allowed 27 points in the last four games.

Head Coach P.J. Fleck prepares to run onto the field with the Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 26. The Gophers defeated Maryland 52-10 bringing their record to 8-0.

Sydni Rose

Head Coach P.J. Fleck prepares to run onto the field with the Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 26. The Gophers defeated Maryland 52-10 bringing their record to 8-0.

John Miller

Another game, another terrific showing by the Gophers defense. 

Minnesota’s defense came into the game having only allowed 17 points in the last three games and Saturday’s game against Maryland would be another commanding display by defensive coordinator Joe Rossi’s squad in a 52-10 rout over the Terrapins.

“This is a team that blew us out of the water last year with the same group of guys that they’ve added to,” said head coach P.J. Fleck about the defense. “I thought we had a really buttoned up plan.”

The Gopher defense has only allowed 27 points in the the last four games. Maryland came into the game averaging 35.6 points per game, 28th best in the country. 

“If they’re shutting people out, we got to do our job and put some points on the board to continue to end games,” quarterback Tanner Morgan said. “If your defense is playing that well you should be able to [take] advantage of that on offense.”

Minnesota’s offense would have plenty of chances to take advantage of opportunities the defense gave them.

The Terrapins got the ball to start the game and the Gophers defense came out and immediately made a play. On the second play from scrimmage, Maryland’s redshirt junior quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome threw a ball that bounced off of his intended receiver and into the hands of who else but Minnesota’s star safety Antoine Winfield Jr.,who would return it 30 yards and set Minnesota’s offense up right at the edge of the red-zone. 

“It set the tone for the game I feel like,” Winfield Jr. said. 

Coming into the day, the Gophers had forced 12 turnovers on the season, nine of which were interceptions. With his fifth interception of the season, Winfield Jr. has the second most interceptions in the country.

 “That’s my goal, just to always be around the ball and you got to fly around the ball and make plays,” Winfield Jr. said. 

Minnesota only needed a minute and 20 seconds to score, as Morgan would find wide receiver Rashod Bateman for a nine-yard touchdown pass to put Minnesota up 7-0 after the extra point. 

“To be able to go down there and score right away is huge,” Morgan said. “Our defense is playing real well.”

There would be no turning back from there, as the rest of the game was all Minnesota.

With Minnesota leading 21-0, Maryland appeared to be driving for their first score of the game with the ball at the Minnesota 30-yard line. That was until Minnesota forced Pigrome to throw another interception, this time ending up in the arms of redshirt sophomore defensive back Coney Durr, and he would have plenty of daylight ahead of him to return it 72 yards for a touchdown and the Gophers a 28-0 lead. 

Maryland came into the game averaging 431 total yards per game. Today, Minnesota held the Maryland offense to 210 yards, less than half its average. 

Minnesota’s defense imposed its will on the Maryland rushing attack, giving up only 79 rushing yards in the game.

After the firing of former defensive coordinator Robb Smith last year, the Gophers now have a 11-1 record since giving the defensive reins to Rossi. 

“Joe Rossi’s tremendous,” head coach P.J. Fleck said about the defense after the game. 

Minnesota’s defense will play the ultimate test in two weeks, when they take on the undefeated, No. 5 Penn State Nittany Lions in the biggest game of the season. The Gophers have hope that ESPN’s College Game Day will attend. 

“We’d love to have ’em. I know our administration would love to have ’em,” said Fleck. “I think it would be a wonderful experience and moment for all of our players. 8-0 versus 8-0, a place they have never been before, a place where the Super Bowl and Final Four has been, let’s do this.”