Gophers run over San Jose State

Quarterback Chris Streveler made his first collegiate start in Saturday’s win.

by Grant Donald

Last year when San Jose State came to town, a redshirt freshman made his first-career start and used his legs to lead the Gophers to a victory.

Fast forward 364 days and the storyline was still the same.

This time, it was Chris Streveler filling in for an injured Mitch Leidner and leading the team to a 24-7 victory — instead of Leidner filling in for former Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson.

“Mitch and I were talking before the game about the similarities of the games that him and I both had. It’s just kind of funny,” Streveler said.

Streveler ran for 161 yards and one touchdown Saturday, 10 yards more than Leidner did last year against the Spartans.

But one key difference between the two games was the passing game.

Streveler failed to complete a pass until there was 6:36 left in the game. He finished the day 1-for-7 for 7 yards and one interception.

Part of the reason that the Gophers threw the ball only seven times was the fact that their leading receiver, Maxx Williams, sat out. Minnesota ruled the redshirt sophomore out a couple of hours before kickoff with a lower-body injury.

“Chris had a nice game. You take the one pick out of it — that was our fault —and otherwise he did well,” head coach Jerry Kill said. “We didn’t have to throw it because we were running so well.”

Though the Gophers didn’t have much success in the air, they racked up 380 rushing yards on 58 carries.

Senior running back David Cobb battled through an ankle injury last week but bounced back in a huge way Saturday. Cobb led the team in rushing with 207 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries.

“The biggest thing was the performance that the offensive line put out there, getting the vertical push,” Cobb said. “The ankle is always feeling good when you win.”

The Gophers’ defense put together another solid effort, forcing five turnovers.

“All those turnovers are big,” Kill said. “I think we are getting turnovers because we are aggressive on defense and we have good speed and kids are making plays.”

Senior linebacker Damien Wilson added nine tackles to his Big Ten-leading total and provided a clutch turnover for the Gophers.

San Jose State was inside the 10-yard line on its first drive of the second half, threatening to score. That’s when Wilson stepped up, forcing and recovering a fumble.

The defense also delivered in the fourth quarter, forcing San Jose State to punt right after a 63-minute delay for inclement weather.

“I thought our kids came out with great enthusiasm and closed the game out,” Kill said.

Throughout the past week, most of the team’s attention was on Leidner and his health after he suffered turf toe against TCU and an MCL injury the previous week against Middle Tennessee State.

Kill said Leidner wasn’t at “full speed” on Thursday, so the coach decided Friday that Streveler would start in place of him.

“You can’t take chances [playing Leidner], and he understands that,” Kill said.

Moving forward, Kill said he doesn’t know if Leidner will be healthy for next weekend’s game against Michigan.

“We just have to see. Not playing this week certainly helps — there is no question about that,” Kill said.