Gophers get win in OT Thriller

Luke Middendorf

After a double-overtime thriller in last week’s loss to Bowling Green, Minnesota gave fans their money’s worth again in Saturday’s triple-overtime, 41-35 victory over Miami (Ohio).

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Florida Atlantic
When: 12 p.m. Saturday
Where: Miami, Fla.

Minnesota started out on the right foot as redshirt freshman quarterback Adam Weber took the Gophers to the red zone on their first drive. Weber seized the opportunity with five- and eight-yard runs, the latter resulting in the Gophers’ first touchdown of the game. Minnesota was unable to get into the end zone at all during the first half of their loss to Bowling Green last weekend.

“From the get go, there was a different kind of excitement,” Weber said. “I think we made a lot of strides this week.”

With the score favoring Minnesota seven to three after one quarter of play, the Gophers (1-1 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) needed to add to the lead to give themselves momentum going into the half.

Minnesota took the ball from their eight-yard line on their first drive of the second quarter, and it was time for Weber to step up and lead the offense down the field. Weber started with a 15-yard scramble, followed by a 13-yard pass to Mike Chambers. On the next play Chambers came from the right slot to take a reverse handoff 38 yards down the left side of the field.

Following Chambers’ run, Weber hooked up with senior receiver Ernie Wheelwright for a 26-yard touchdown reception, bringing the score to 14-3.

“We (Minnesota) came out and got the train rolling and the offense moving,” Wheelwright said.

After a Miami touchdown later in the second, kicker Trevor Cook botched the extra point attempt leaving the RedHawks to a deficit of 14-9.

Senior Amir Pinnix opened up the next drive for the Gophers with a 34-yard run down the right sideline, but Minnesota would eventually be stopped on a fourth and one situation on their five-yard line. The missed opportunity kept the Gophers at just a five-point lead going into the half.

The defense continued to prove their strength to start the second half, forcing Miami to go three and out on their first possession. On the RedHawks’ next drive however, they would add a field goal to bring themselves within two points of the lead.

After a 54-yard pass completion by Miami on the final play of the third quarter, the RedHawks (1-1, 1-0 MAC) were primed to take their first lead of the game.

But Gophers’ cornerback Jamal Harris showed his senior leadership by picking off the very next pass in the end zone, halting the Miami drive and allowing Minnesota to keep their slim lead.

The lead would not stay slim for long however, as Weber found sophomore receiver Eric Decker on the right sideline for a short completion which Decker turned into a 59-yard burst down the sideline for a touchdown.

After a punt by each team and a fumble recovery by Harris on the RedHawks’ next possession, Weber would again hook up with Wheelwright in the end zone for a five-yard touchdown to extend the Gopher’s lead to 28-12.

Miami would counter with touchdown passes on their next two series, bringing themselves within three points of the lead. After another Minnesota three and out, the RedHawks had the ball with 2:01 remaining in the game and a chance to tie or take the lead.

After an incomplete pass on third and one, which was broken up by true freshman cornerback Ryan Collado, Miami kicker Trevor Cook nailed a 36-yard field goal to tie it up at 28, and with just 11 seconds left on the clock, sending the game into overtime.

After winning the toss, Minnesota chose to take the defense out on the field to start the extra session. On the very first play, Miami backup running back Andre Bratton blasted out a 22-yard run, followed shortly by a four-yard touchdown run, giving the RedHawks a 35-28 lead.

On Minnesota’s first series, they would again look to Decker to make a big play, and he delivered with a 25-yard touchdown reception. The touchdown tied the game at 35 and sent it to a second overtime.

Miami started the next series on defense and the RedHawks held the Gophers to a 26-yard field goal attempt. Junior kicker Jason Gianinni was unreliable for Minnesota as he missed the field goal, giving Miami a chance to win the game as they took over on its 25-yard line.

After four runs in a row by the RedHawks, the Gophers stood tall once again in the red zone. However, Miami was able to bring the ball to their 15-yard line, setting up a 25-yard field goal which would have given the RedHawks a three-point victory.

As many of Minnesota’s fans began to leave the stadium in anticipation of more disappointment, Cook followed in Gianinni’s footsteps and shockingly missed his kick wide right to send the game into a third overtime.

With Miami taking the ball in the first series of the third overtime, the RedHawks looked to again have the game wrapped up as they began with a 20-yard pass to the five-yard line.

On the next play senior defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg stepped up big with a tackle for a loss, followed by a batted-down pass by Harris which could have been an interception. But Harris didn’t let his team down on the next play, grabbing a huge interception in the end zone to give the Gophers the ball back on their own 25.

Using one word to describe the feeling of the immensely important pick, Harris said he felt “relief.”

Minnesota pounded the ball to Pinnix in the next series, starting with a 20-yard run. Three plays later, Pinnix and the Gophers sealed the deal as the senior running back blasted into the end zone from the two-yard line, giving Minnesota the 41-35 victory.

“I am thrilled to death that we got a victory this afternoon,” coach Tim Brewster said following the game. “We fought, we scratched, and we did what we had to do to get the ‘W.’ “