Gophers come from behind in new home

In the first game at TCF Bank Stadium, more than 50,000 fans welcomed the Gophers home.

For many, it had been 28 years coming. They could still vaguely remember college football in Minnesota under the sun and the clouds and the stars, instead of under white Teflon. For others, Dome ball was all they knew. Regardless, Saturday night was quite literally a breath of fresh air for all involved. With that new stadium smell still lingering, a sellout crowd of 50,805 squeezed into TCF Bank Stadium for the Gophers’ first outdoor, on-campus home game since Memorial Stadium shut its doors after the 1981 season. And though it wasn’t always pretty, Minnesota gave the fans the housewarming gift they came for — a 20-13 win over Air Force. “From the time we got here today for the Gopher victory walk and then the game itself, this place was magic tonight,” head coach Tim Brewster said after the game. That magic was in serious jeopardy, however, until early in the fourth quarter. With the offense struggling to piece a drive together and the Gophers (2-0 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) still trailing 10-3 late in the third, it seemed Air Force (1-1 overall, 0-0 Mountain West) had found the mute button for TCF Bank Stadium. But on the last play of the third quarter, senior tight end Nick Tow-Arnett found a seam in the middle of the field and junior quarterback Adam Weber hit him to turn third and 25 into first and 10. Four plays later, Minnesota turned the drive into seven points and a tie game. “I missed [Tow-Arnett] earlier in the game on basically the same play,” Weber said. “But I learned from that play and obviously, on third and long, anytime you can convert those and keep a drive going it’s just a momentum swinger.” Just over a minute and a half later, the momentum swung even further in the Gophers’ direction when Falcons quarterback Tim Jefferson coughed up the football and senior linebacker Nate Triplett scooped it up and scampered 52 yards for a touchdown , an exclamation point on an already remarkable evening. Triplett recorded 17 tackles in addition to the fumble recovery, none more important than a fourth and one stop of Jonathan Warzeka on the Gophers’ 9-yard line early in the third quarter. “Coach [Brewster] came up to me [this week] and said, ‘We’re going to need a big game out of you,’ ” Triplett said. “And I said, ‘Alright.’ ” If the first two weeks are any indication, Triplett may make a habit out of big games. His overtime interception of Syracuse’s Greg Paulus a week ago helped propel the Gophers to a 23-20 win. But against Air Force’s triple option offense, Brewster needed a big game out of all his linebackers. They delivered. Seniors Lee Campbell and Simoni Lawrence notched 11 and 10 tackles, respectively, keeping the Falcons’ well-oiled ground game from doing too much damage. Despite rushing for 261 yards, Air Force found the end zone just once. Of course, for the first three quarters of the game, it looked as though Minnesota might not find the end zone at all. Even more than 50,000 fans were unable to will the offense into rhythm and Weber’s 5-for-11 first half left him seething . “The lack of tempo and the lack of consistency on offense was very frustrating,” Weber said. Frustration dissipated quickly after halftime, however, as Weber’s protection tightened and his favorite target began finding space. By the end of the night, Weber found senior wide receiver Eric Decker 10 times for 113 yards. On the Gophers’ touchdown drive, Decker accounted for 57 of the 72 yards. If that duo had anything to say about it, they were leaving their first game in TCF Bank Stadium with a win. “We knew that it was our night, and it was our house,” Brewster said.