First half reaction: Gophers 16 UNLV 13

by Jack Satzinger

UNLV started with the ball and slowly marched down the field for a 13 play, 75 yard score. Quarterback Nick Sherry exposed the Gophers middle of the field, going seven-for-eight for 43 yards. Minnesota has been OK at preventing the deep ball, but needs to be better at stopping short passes. 

Another concern for the Gophers defense is closing out drives. Twice in the second quarter, UNLV converted on fourth down to extend their possession. One such play was a 34 yard touchdown pass to give the visitors a 13-10 lead. 

Philip Nelson kicked off the game erratically, throwing a deep interception to end the team’s first possession and fumbling the ball unforced before recovering it on the next. To be fair, the interception didn't appear to be completely Nelson's fault. He underthrew receiver Derrick Engel a bit, but the ball was certainly catchable. UNLV defensive back Tajh Hasson made a great play. At the end of the first quarter, running back Donnell Kirkwood had more rushing yards than Nelson had passing. 

The Gophers quarterback rebounded on the team’s third drive with a great play-action fake leading to a 21-yard completion to tight end Drew Goodger. One play later, Nelson ran 48 yards nearly untouched for a touchdown. At the end of the half, Minnesota drove 39 yards for a touchdown pass to Maxx Williams. Nelson threw the ball too far out in front, but Williams dove and made a great play. 

Notes:

  • Minnesota fans held their breath while top defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman was down on the field hurt early in the game. He has come back in and appears to be fine. 
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  • Gophers safety Brock Vereen looked great early, with a couple of tough open-field tackles. 
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  • The loss of Derrick Wells (out with hamstring and shoulder issues) hurt Minnesota early. UNLV targeted his replacement, Briean Boddy-Calhoun often. One such instance was a trick play (hook and ladder) for a considerable gain. 
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  • In a surprising move, Minnesota's Offensive Coordinator Matt Limegrover went to running back David Cobb as his first back-up after Kirkwood. Rodrick Williams played that role last year and still hasn't gotten a touch. 
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  • Stats Leaders
  • Passing — Nick Sherry: 131 yards
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  • Rushing — Philip Nelson: 65 yards
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  • Receiving — Devante Davis: 77 yards
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  • Tackles — Peni Vea: 7

 

Bottom Line: Nelson needs to limit mistakes and the Gophers defense must stop short-yardage plays and close out drives.