Redshirt-senior Conner Olson becomes the leader of Gophers’ veteran offensive line

After making his 52nd consecutive start against Maryland, a program record, Olson led a dominant performance from the Gophers’ offensive line.

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Ethan Fine

Linebacker Conner Olson tugs at Bowling Green’s Dontrez Brown during the University of Minnesota’s game against Bowling Green at Huntington Bank Stadium, Saturday, Sept. 25. The Gophers fell to the Falcons, 14-10.

by Tony Liebert

For the 23rd time in his career, Conner Olson was slated to start at left guard for the Gophers against Maryland. It marked the 52nd consecutive overall start of his career. His record-breaking day did not start out exactly perfect, as he slipped and fell on the first play of the game.

“I like to play like a kid, as they say, so sometimes that’s on the ground,” Olson said with a smile.

His 52nd career start broke a record previously held by long snapper Payton Jordahl, who played for the Gophers from 2015-18. Olson has been a versatile offensive lineman throughout his career, with 15 starts at center, 14 at right guard and now 23 at left guard, where he has played this season.

“It’s just another game. We’ve got a handful more,” Olson said. “It’s cool to get that record, and I hope I break that record again next week. I’m not going to get too focused on that just yet. It’s more so about the team than the individual record.”

Olson and the rest of Minnesota’s offensive line did just that: They put together another dominant performance, which resulted in 326 total rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. They protected Tanner Morgan at a high level, allowing zero Maryland sacks.

Minnesota relied heavily on their veteran offensive line and running game in the second half. With 23 consecutive run plays to end the game, it is sometimes a dream come true for offensive linemen like Olson.

“It’s a credit to the entire unit to be able to go out there and finish the game in that fashion,” Olson said. “Our running backs definitely instill a lot of confidence in the run game, and when you’ve got [tight end] Ko Kieft on the edge, you always feel pretty good out there. It was a good way to end the game. From an offensive lineman’s standpoint, I always prefer to running it to passing it — no offense to Tanner [Morgan].”

The Gophers’ pair of young running backs had breakout performances against the Terrapins. Redshirt freshman Ky Thomas finished with 21 carries for 139 rushing yards and a touchdown, while freshman Mar’kiese “Bucko” Irving added 15 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown of his own.

The offensive line is a position group often overlooked by the average football fan, and Thomas and Irving’s breakout performances could not have happened without the dominant day from Olson and the rest of the Gophers’ offensive line.

“I had the best seat in the house,” Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan said. “It was very dominant, being able to see those guys execute every single play.”

Olson is one of four redshirt seniors and five seniors overall to start Minnesota along the offensive line. The veteran group has played like one of the best in the country this season, resulting in the 24th most rushing yards in the country this season, averaging 210 per contest. The group has also been quite effective when it comes to pass-blocking, allowing the 19th fewest sacks in the country, with only nine this season.

With an average size of nearly 6-feet-6-inches and 330 pounds, the Gophers have one of the most physically imposing and veteran offensive lines in the country

“Just because you’re big doesn’t make you good,” Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck said. “We have a very experienced group up front.”

Originally from Monticello, Minn., Olson’s record-breaking day encapsulates what has been a remarkable season for Minnesota’s offensive line.