Quick Hitters: Breakdown of Minnesota’s last game

Drew Cove

Minnesota: 48, Oregon State: 14

Sept. 9, 2017

Reser Stadium



Minnesota’s running game got back to its old form Saturday. The two running backs in Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks scored a combined four touchdowns and 184 yards of rushing offense in Minnesota’s blowout win. The running game was the focus against an Oregon State defense that allowed 90 points in the first two games of the season, and after the Gophers were finished, the Beavers had allowed 138 points in three games.

The Gophers managed to force three turnovers, and they were able to convert those recoveries into 17 points, more than Oregon State scored in the entire game.

Receiver Tyler Johnson was the favorite of quarterback Conor Rhoda again, totaling 127 yards and one touchdown.

While Oregon State kept it to within one score at the end of the first half at 20-14, the Gophers would pull away with four-unanswered touchdowns to complete the game in the second half.

It was over when:

Linebacker Jonathan Celestin recovered a fumble by the Beavers offense at Oregon State’s 14-yard line, and Smith ran the ball in for a one-yard touchdown shortly after to make the score 27-14.

While it was looking bleak for the Beavers, their offense went three-and-out, and the Gophers marched down the field to get another touchdown and secure a 34-14 lead, and never looked back.

Key play:

Johnson went on the same route across the middle he did to score the first touchdown of the season against Buffalo in week one, and got the pass from Rhoda, this time he took it 67 yards for the first score of the game.

Five Observations:

1. The run game showed what it can do

While Oregon State has a very beatable defense, Minnesota’s running game was lackluster in the opener against Buffalo. The Gophers running game and the offensive line worked together to get yards and touchdowns against Oregon State.

2. Conor Rhoda appeared to take the reins as the number one quarterback

Croft fumbled the ball on his first drive, and didn’t play much until the end of the game Saturday where he rushed for a late touchdown.

Rhoda only threw the ball eight times, completing seven of them, and half of those passes were targeted to Johnson.

3. The defense looked energized

Head coach P.J. Fleck emphasized the importance of turnovers, and the defense was able to deliver.

Recovering three fumbles turned into 17 points for the Gophers.

The defense’s strength at linebacker showed, with two recovering the fumbles, and one forcing a fumble.

4. The foot stayed on the gas pedal

Minnesota’s players didn’t hold back near the end of the game, still tacking on touchdowns as the game was far out of reach for Oregon State.

5. Center Jared Weyler went down with an injury in the third quarter.

The offensive line was shuffled around after his exit from the game, but he is an important part to the success and development of the young and inexperienced core.

Quote of the game:

“I think the story of the game, when you look at [Smith] and [Brooks] … one thing I’ll say about them is they’re very selfless … these guys are really starting to come together as a football team.” – Head coach P.J. Fleck.

Up Next:

Minnesota will face off against Middle Tennessee State (1-1) at TCF Bank Stadium Saturday. The Gophers are 2-0 all-time vs. the Blue Raiders.