Quick hitters: Minnesota at Colorado State

Ben Gotz

Final Score: Minnesota 23, Colorado State 20

Recap: In the thin Colorado air, kicker Ryan Santoso didn’t need a lot of leg to give the Gophers the win.

Santoso booted an 18 yard field goal in overtime to push Minnesota past Colorado State, after the team’s first win of the year nearly slipped away from them.

The Gophers offense struggled for most of the day, failing to gain a first down until halfway through the second quarter. Minnesota’s defense kept the game close, but the team trailed for most of the fourth quarter until quarterback Mitch Leidner hit wide receiver KJ Maye for a 22 yard touchdown.

The Rams drove for a last second field goal in regulation, but coughed the ball up on their first play in overtime. The Gophers ran the ball close for Santoso from there, and the redshirt sophomore’s aim was true.

Key play: Defensive tackle Scott Ekpe picked up a bobbling ball Colorado State running back Dalyn Dawkins lost on the first play of overtime. The turnover gave the Gophers the ball, needing only a field goal to win the game.

It was over when: Santoso’s kick was up and good. The field goal attempt was made a chip shot thanks to the running of redshirt freshman Rodney Smith, who got the ball to the Rams’ one yard line.

Five observations:

1. Offense struggles early and often

It was an ugly start for the Gophers, with quarterback Mitch Leidner completing only one of his first seven passes for two yards. The team had three straight scoring drives to bookend the first and second halves, but later the sloppy play returned and kept the team trailing.

2. Leidner saves best for last

The Gophers offense, to their credit, stepped up at the end of the game. With 3:11 left to play Minnesota got the ball back and drove for a go-ahead touchdown. Leidner struggled along with the Gophers offense for most of the game but his last throw to Maye was right on the money. Leidner finished with a career high 45 pass attempts and completed 23 for 233 yards.

3. Wolitarsky provides nice target

Maye caught the biggest pass of the game, but wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky was the Gophers most consistent passing threat. Wolitarsky caught nine passes for 114 yards in the game, nearly half of Leidner’s total passing yards.

4. Santoso remains a weapon

Santoso was three of four on field goal attempts for the Gophers, with makes from 35 and 51 yards out in addition to his game-winner. The redshirt sophomore looks like he will continue to be a big special teams weapon for Minnesota this year.

5. Richardson disruptive on d-line

Defensive tackle Scott Ekpe came up with a big play on the overtime turnover, but the man next to him was the Gophers best player on defense Saturday. Sophomore defensive tackle Steven Richardson was disruptive all game, with seven tackles and a sack.

Up next: The Gophers will return home next week to play Kent State on Saturday, Sept. 19 at 11 a.m.