The Gophers defense sending Colorado backward to minus-19 rushing yards in Saturday’s 30-0 shutout at Folsom Field was the lowest total Minnesota has allowed on the ground since a quirky game in 1998.
The U limited an eventual 10-win Michigan team to minus-23 rushing yards at the Metrodome that October, with the Gophers sacking Tom Brady four times and Michigan punter Jason Vinson charged with a 25-yard loss on a botched play.
Brady was good that Saturday, but not future-NFL-hall-of-famer good. He completed 19 of 27 passes for 282 yards, with a 76-yard TD and no interceptions in a 15-10 victory.
On Saturday Minnesota’s defense sacked young Buffaloes quarterback Brendon Lewis four times, and backup QB Drew Carter was their leading rusher with nine yards in garbage time. The reigning Pac-12 offensive player of the year, running back Jerek Broussard, was playing hurt and had only five carries for eight yards.
“It was definitely a connected defense,” Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck said. “I saw a connected defense playing for each other and having a lot of fun.”
Saturdays rushing total was the fourth fewest in school history, with minus-46 against Michigan the record set in 1962.
Colorado’s 63 total offensive yards were the fewest gained by an FBS team since Kansas in 2017, a U spokesman said.
Here are four other talking points coming out of Saturday’s game:
End of half
The Gophers were driving late in the first half when tackle Sam Schlueter was flagged as an ineligible player downfield. Fleck said he was told by the officials that the clock would stop on the play.
But the clock restarted, Trey Potts rushed for nine yards and the half ended. Fleck was livid.
“I’m going based on what I was told, simple as that,” Fleck reflected Monday. “I had a timeout, if I was told that the clock would’ve continued to go, I would’ve called a timeout. I would’ve just gone up and we would’ve ran hurry-up, ran the ball, called timeout and kicked the field goal. Going based on what I said, that’s why I didn’t call a timeout, I thought that was a mistake.
“I’ve got to double- and triple-check that, simple as that,” Fleck continued. “Officials do a really good job usually communicating with me over and over and over about those situations. It falls on me, I should’ve double- and triple-checked. I kind of took that for granted a little bit, but I told the players that was my fault. That was discussed, I thought I heard something else.”
The Gophers’ 2022 recruiting class increased to 13 members in June and hasn’t grown since because Fleck doesn’t know how many more scholarships he can add to balance the to-be-determined amount of players departing after the season.
“More than ever, I have no idea,” Fleck said about a ballpark total expected for the class. “We are not doing anything right now with taking more (commitments). … We’ve been at that number for a long time.
“… I feel good about the number we have, knowing that that number will probably increase,” Fleck continued. The additions could be more high school prospects or college players through the transfer portal.
The NCAA has a 25-person signing limit per class, but that reportedly could increase this year to offset the number of players exiting schools through the portal.
With Mar’Keise Irving’s first career rushes coming Saturday, it’s time to address the nickname that followed him from his Illinois high school to Minnesota: Bucky.
There is a movement dating at least to July to get the true freshman running back to slightly alter it, considering it also is the name of rival Wisconsin’s mascot.
“Yeah, ‘Bucko,’ ” quarterback Tanner Morgan said Saturday. That’s what we call him: ‘Bucko’ or ‘Buck.’ ”
Whatever moniker he ends up going by, Morgan added, ‘that guy can flat-out play ball though. We started calling him ‘Bucko’ in the summer, just with the mascots and whatnot, but I kind of like ‘Bucko,’ personally.”
After zero rushes in the first two games, Irving had 15 carries for 89 yards against Colorado.
Purdue, the Gophers’ next Big Ten opponent, lost starting senior running back Zander Horvath to a broken leg last week and now star receiver David Bell is in concussion protocol after suffering a hit in the 27-13 loss to No. 12 Notre Dame on Saturday.
Bell’s status will be watched when the Boilermakers (2-1) face Illinois (1-3) on Saturday. Purdue is an 11-point favorite.
Meanwhile, Minnesota (2-1) is a huge 31-point favorite against Bowling Green (1-2), which beat FCS Murray State on Saturday after losing its first two games, to South Alabama (22-19) and Tennessee (38-6).
On Monday, the Big Ten said Minnesota’s restart of Big Ten play against Purdue will kickoff at 11 a.m. Oct. 2 in West Lafayette, Ind., and will air on Big Ten Network.
The Gophers’ most-prominent known injury coming from the Colorado game was offensive lineman Curtis Dunlap exiting late in the game Saturday. The extent of his injury is not believed to be serious. … Fleck’s mentor Mike Nolan attended Saturday’s game. Nolan was the 49ers’ head coach when Fleck joined the franchise in 2004 as an undrafted receiver from Northern Illinois.