Two Gophers players go in for the tackle on Saturday, Sept. 30 at TCF Bank Stadium.
The start to the Big Ten season left the Gophers empty-handed in the standings.
Minnesota (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten) lost to Maryland (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) 31-24 Saturday as injury and competition plagued the team in the final minutes at TCF Bank Stadium.
“We’re not deep enough, we don’t have enough talent … from top to bottom,” said head coach P.J. Fleck. “We didn’t deserve to win.”
The score was tied 24-24 with over a minute left in the game, when Maryland running back Ty Johnson broke through the middle to score a 34-yard touchdown.
Gophers quarterback Conor Rhoda threw an interception on the next drive, sealing the win for the Terrapins.
The Gophers were limited to 80 rushing yards in Saturday’s loss, with Minnesota running back Rodney Smith only accumulating 35 yards on 18 carries.
“We talk about time of possession, the ball and we talk about third downs,” Fleck said. “We didn’t do well enough.”
Minnesota’s defense also had a weak day. The Gophers allowed 416 yards, their most allowed in a game this year by 162.
The Gophers top-ranked rushing defense in the country — allowing 59 yards per game coming into Saturday — gave up 262 yards on the ground.
The Gophers, on top of missing tackles, let Maryland go 9-16 on third down conversions.
In one drive, safety Jacob Huff and defensive end Winston DeLattiboudere both had passes go through their hands. Despite these defensive setbacks in missing tackles and allowing more yards than usual, Minnesota managed to get out of the first half down only 17-10.
Minnesota struggled on defense and on offense at times in the first half.
“They played us really well defensively,” Rhoda said. “[They] kept Rodney [Smith] and Shannon [Brooks] and the rest of the run game down.”
One of the biggest threats to a Minnesota victory, before the defensive struggles, was injury.
Minnesota’s top safety, Antoine Winfield Jr., went down with an injury in the first quarter and did not return.
Numerous game-time decisions plagued the Gophers Saturday. Wide receiver Demetrius Douglas came out to warmups with a boot on his right leg, and coach Fleck said he would miss “a significant amount of time.” Additionally, center Jared Weyler missed his second consecutive game.
Defensively, the injuries have piled up. Defensive back Zo Craighton is out for the season, and Antoine Winfield Jr. was injured in the first quarter and was ruled out to return to the game.
“It hurts us a lot,” Fleck said. “[Winfield is] one of the best players in the conference, [and] we’re thin at secondary as it is.”
Minnesota was without its top two safeties after Winfield went down Saturday, with Duke McGhee sitting out Saturday’s game because of off-the-field issues, Fleck said.
“Offensively, we turned the ball over too much,” Fleck said. “… we missed field goals and kicked the ball out of bounds multiple times … and then defensively, we don’t tackle very well.”