No southern comfort for Gophers

Florida Atlantic QB Rusty Smith lit up the Minnesota defense for 463 yards in the air.

by Brian Deutsch

After the Minnesota football team fell three points short in a 42-39 comeback loss to Florida Atlantic on Saturday, coach Tim Brewster gave his team all the credit and put all the blame on himself and his coaching staff.

“I’m very, very disappointed in myself because we didn’t do a very good job in the first half, and that’s on me as the head football coach,” Brewster said. “I’ve got to do a better job of giving our kids a chance.”

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when: 8 p.m. Saturday
where: The Metrodome

After both teams found the end zone on each of their first two drives, the two teams split off on two very different paths.

The Owls would convert three of their next five drives into touchdowns to take a 35-14 lead into halftime.

Florida Atlantic’s first half was topped off by a 99-yard drive that featured a two-yard touchdown job by sophomore running back Charles Pierre and 42-yard pass earlier in the drive by redshirt freshman quarterback Rusty Smith.

Smith’s pass was completed on third down from his own two-yard line.

After all was said and done, Smith would net 315 passing yards in the first half alone completing 19 of 29 passes with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

“We came into this game knowing we had the upper hand on (Minnesota),” Smith said. “We felt like we could beat them watching them on film and after we scored our first touchdown, our confidence went through the roof.”

Meanwhile, Minnesota (1-2 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) would turn the ball over four times throughout the rest of the first half including senior running back Amir Pinnix’s fumble on the Florida Atlantic one-yard line that was recovered for a touchback.

The Gophers’ passing game also left something to be desired in the first half as redshirt freshman quarterback Adam Weber went just 6 of 10 for 58 yards.

Weber threw one touchdown and two interceptions as his team went into the half looking dead in the water.

“We hurt ourselves,” Weber said. “When we had opportunities, we’d shoot ourselves in the foot.”

But after halftime, Minnesota’s conditioning started to show as did Florida Atlantic’s lack thereof.

The Gophers were finally able to get back on the scoreboard in the third quarter when the team’s new starting kicker, junior Joel Monroe, hit a 21-yard field goal to cut into the lead.

Weber and the receiving corps took over from there, hooking up for three passing touchdowns over the remainder of the game.

While the offense was putting points on the board, the Gophers’ defense did a better job of keeping points off of it.

Minnesota allowed just one second-half touchdown by Florida Atlantic (2-1, 1-0 Sun Belt) – Smith’s fifth and final touchdown pass that hit sophomore wide out Conshario Johnson in the end zone.

The second half turnaround brought the score to 42-39 in favor of the Owls and when the Gophers forced a punt with 33 seconds left – Minnesota was given an opportunity to pull off a comeback.

But Weber’s inexperience emerged as the quarterback threw his fourth interception of the game with his team in field goal range.

“I forced it in. I thought those extra couple yards could help on the field goal,” Weber said. “You should have just thrown the ball away and let the field goal kicker kick it, but I got a little greedy.”

But Minnesota’s second half improvements have Brewster thinking positively against next weekend’s Big Ten opener against Purdue.

“I couldn’t be any prouder of this football team.”