Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Daily Email Edition

Get MN Daily NEWS delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday!


Minnesota football served fans a 35-24 victory over Louisiana for homecoming

With running back Darius Taylor ruled out, freshman Zach Evans made the most out of his Gophers debut, collecting 85 yards and a touchdown.
Image by Amaya Battle
PJ Fleck and the Gopher football team on Sept. 30, 2023.

Minnesota football scored off each of the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns’ two interceptions in the second half, rebounding from a three-point deficit at halftime to win 35-24. The Gophers’ record now sits at 3-2 before they resume Big Ten play.

Three-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week running back Darius Taylor was ruled out of Saturday’s homecoming game due to an injury, his first absence since taking a commanding role in the offense. Minnesota elected to operate their backfield by committee with running backs Bryce Williams, Sean Tyler and Zach Evans. Williams and Evans stepped in and shared a team-high 15 carries.

“[Darius Taylor] is already one of the best tailbacks in the country statistically,” said head coach P.J. Fleck during the post-game press conference. “This is where other people have opportunities … When everyone is pretty good, it comes down to who does it just a little bit better and more consistently.”

Minnesota won the opening coin toss and chose to defer to the second half, a choice that would prove to be beneficial later on.

The rushing prowess of Louisiana quarterback Zeon Chriss caused trouble early on for the Gophers’ defense. Entering Saturday, Chriss had averaged 13.4 yards per carry and four rushing TDs on the season. Through designed rushes and improvised scrambles, Chriss quickly led Louisiana down the field. He found receiver Peter LeBlanc in the corner of the endzone for the first touchdown of the day, to give Louisiana a 7-0 lead.

Louisiana kicked it back to Minnesota and returner Quentin Redding could not slow his momentum toward the ball, taking him and the ball out of bounds at the four-yard line. The Gophers contested the opposing defensive front for breathing room, but failed to reach the first down marker at the 14-yard line.

The Gophers started at their 14-yard line in their next offensive possession. Evans received his first carry of the season and took it six yards. Quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis made a more aggressive push down the field with throws to his receivers Daniel Jackson and Elijah Spencer. 

The drive ended in a receiving touchdown by Jackson to tie the game 7-7. The touchdown was Jackson’s third of the year and his fourth would come in the final quarter to seal the Gophers’ win.

Gophers defensive lineman Logan Richter set the Ragin Cajuns up with a nice field position early into the following drive. His penalty for illegal helmet contact added 15 yards to running back Dre’lyn Washington’s 17-yard run, moving Louisiana into Minnesota territory. However, the Ragin Cajuns could not get any further movement once inside the red zone and settled for a field goal for a lead of 10-7. 

Wide receiver Le’Meke Brockington was injured on Minnesota’s first offensive drive of the second quarter and was carted off the field. Kaliakmanis found much-needed support from his running backs to get to the two-yard line where they then tush pushed Kaliakmanis across the goal line for a Gophers lead 14-10. 

“Just the Eagles, Jalen Hurts play … It’s a great play, ain’t it,” Kaliakmanis said when asked about the name of the quarterback sneak play with an extra boost from behind.

Chriss and the Ragin Cajuns responded with a touchdown of their own to reclaim the lead 17-14.

Kaliakmanis, with less than a minute left in the first half, attempted a deep pass to Corey Crooms Jr. The pass was a bit lofty and overthrown into the hands of Louisiana safety Tyrone Lewis.

Minnesota received the second-half kick with another opportunity to score and looked to capitalize. Sean Tyler and Evans had their sights on the end zone. The duo combined for 52 yards on seven carries on the drive that was capped with an 18-yard touchdown rush by Evans for a Gophers lead of 21-17.

Defenders began to adjust to Chriss and his devastating out-of-pocket antics, closing in on QB draws and containing play-action rollouts. Defensive end Anthony Smith prevented Chriss from making a break toward the first down marker, forcing Louisiana to punt.

Smith was a late contributor to the game but made sure he and the rest of the defensive line’s presence was felt. After giving up 67 rushing yards on seven attempts in the first half, the Gophers defense held Chriss to just seven rushing yards throughout the second half.

“The guy is a great playmaker on his feet … We knew coming into the game that this would be a big challenge,” said safety Jack Henderson.

Limiting Chriss’ ability to operate outside of the pocket was emphasized by restricting his movement and containing him to a single area. This extended opportunities for the defensive backs to make plays. Henderson was one of two players to secure an interception in the second half.

The first was safety Tyler Nubin whose 11th career interception came from reading the eyes of Chriss and jumping Louisiana tight end Neal Johnson’s route. Henderson had help from linebacker Maverick Baranowski who caused enough pressure on Chriss for him to make an ill-advised throw straight into Henderson’s arms.

Minnesota’s offense scored off both turnovers and moved the score to 35-17.

Down 18 with five minutes left the game was out of reach for Louisiana, but they continued to play hard. On the final scoring play of the game, running back Jacob Kibodi broke free from the grasp of Minnesota’s linebacking core and saw nothing but green ahead, taking it 52 yards to the end zone to make it 35-24 and the final score of the game.

For their next game, Minnesota is scheduled to host No. 2 ranked Michigan on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. The two programs have faced each other for the Little Brown Jug 104 times, with 1977 being the last year Minnesota won at home.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Accessibility Toolbar

Comments (0)

All The Minnesota Daily Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *