Gophers take another step forward with victory over Maryland

Minnesota put together another complete performance, improving to 8-0.

by Nick Jungheim

Final: Minnesota 52 – Maryland 10

Minnesota scored the game’s first 28 points and never let up, remaining unbeaten in 2019 to arrange a matchup of undefeated teams as Penn State comes to Minneapolis this week.

The 42-point margin of victory was the Gophers’ largest of the season as they improved their overall win streak to 10 games. Relying on the ground game, Minnesota picked apart the Terrapins, as seven different rushers combined for 321 yards, averaging 5.9 yards per carry.

Despite featuring a talented backfield, Maryland’s rushers could not keep up, totaling less than 100 yards on the ground. After falling behind early, the Terrapins had to lean on passes to get back in the game, but three quarterbacks combined for a stat line of 10 completions in 23 attempts for one touchdown and two interceptions.

It was over when: 

Less than four minutes remained in the first half when Maryland found themselves with their best chance to put points on the board. Trailing 21-0, the Terrapins faced a third and 11 at the Minnesota 30. Maryland would not convert; instead, quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome’s pass bounced off his receiver’s hands, landing in the lap of redshirt junior Coney Durr who returned the interception 72 yards for a Gophers touchdown.

Key play:

Minnesota set the tone of the game on the second play from scrimmage. Redshirt sophomore Antoine Winfield Jr. intercepted his fifth pass of the season at mid-field and returned it 30 yards. The turnover set up the game’s opening touchdown four plays later.

Five Observations:

1. Rush defense continues to impress.

When the two teams met in 2018, it was Maryland that dominated in the run game, out-gaining the Gophers 321 yards to 132. This year, just like against Illinois and Nebraska, Minnesota’s rush defense proved it was a dramatically improved unit compared to a year ago. The Terrapins averaged 3.4 yards per carry on Oct. 26, compared to 8.5 yards per carry against Minnesota last season.

2. Third down success helped Gophers dominate time of possession.

One of the most important ways an offense can help its defense is to dominate time of possession. That’s exactly what Minnesota did against Maryland. The Gophers offense was on the field for almost 43 minutes. When needed, they had no trouble extending drives, converting 7-11 third downs.

3. Rodney Smith making history in final season.

Redshirt senior Rodney Smith had another productive afternoon, recording his fifth consecutive game with over 100 rushing yards and a touchdown. On the scoring play, he passed Darrell Thompson’s program record of 5,109 all-purpose yards. Smith also eclipsed 3,000 career rushing yards against Maryland. He ranks third in school history in that category.

4. Gophers remain among nation’s least penalized teams.

Against the Terrapins, Minnesota was penalized just twice for 15 yards. On the season, the Gophers have committed 32 penalties, tying them with Iowa State for the fourth fewest penalties per game in the nation. Take away a seven penalty performance against Fresno State and Minnesota has only committed 25 penalties in its other seven games.

5. Big Ten West title within reach.

At 5-0 in the Big Ten, Minnesota has a two game lead in the Big Ten West over No. 16 Wisconsin and No. 18 Iowa, both 3-2 in conference. The Badgers and Hawkeyes face off this Saturday, meaning one of those teams will have three Big Ten losses after this weekend. Even if the Gophers can’t defeat Penn State, they are in a favorable position to reach the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis if they can earn at least two victories in their final three games.