Newcomers seeing a different side of Gophers football

Anyone watching the Big Ten NetworkâÄôs broadcast of MinnesotaâÄôs game against Montana State on Sept. 13 heard an interesting statistic. Then heard it again. And again. Every time senior kicker Joel Monroe made a point after, the announcers noted that he had yet to miss one in his college career. He made five in the game to bring his consecutive total to 56 . He was successful on his first attempt Saturday against Florida Atlantic . But on his 58th, he was wide right and recorded the first failed point-after attempt of his career. He wasnâÄôt alone in having career firsts on Saturday. True freshman running back DeLeon Eskridge started the first game of his career. He had a successful day, rushing for 79 yards and snagging six balls for 61 yards. Junior college transfer Simoni Lawrence, a linebacker, made his first career interception in the fourth quarter and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown. It was MinnesotaâÄôs first pick for a score since Dom Barber returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown against Indiana on Nov. 4, 2006. Lawrence, a running back in high school , said his family was used to seeing him score touchdowns and was waiting for him to find the end zone despite the fact that heâÄôs on defense now. âÄúTheyâÄôre like âÄòCan I get a touchdown or something?âÄô so I was like âÄòAlright, I got you mom,âÄô âÄù he said. Pick pick Lawrence wasnâÄôt the only one in on the interceptions. Minnesota picked off the ball four times on Saturday to bring its season total to eight in just four games. In 12 games last year, it had seven . âÄúOur defense today and all season long has been very opportunistic,âÄù head coach Tim Brewster said Saturday after the GophersâÄô 37-3 drubbing of Florida Atlantic. Six different players have intercepted a pass. Sophomore strong safety Kyle Theret and junior cornerback Traye Simmons have each had picks in two straight games. Minnesota has also recovered five fumbles this year. What has made the turnovers so beneficial, though, is that the Gophers have given the ball away only twice. Their 2.75 turnover margin ranks fourth in the nation.