Gophers Gain Ground in B1G West After Running Over Terrapins

PHOTO: AARON LAVINSKY – STAR TRIBUNE

It was a beautiful day for some fall football on the eastern edge of Minneapolis, MN on Saturday afternoon. It was there, at Huntington Bank Stadium, where the Minnesota Gophers and Maryland Terrapins did battle for the fifth time in five years.

After Mohamed Ibrahim, who is now walking and no longer using a scooter, won his 6th-straight coin toss, the Gophers deferred. The defense wasn’t on the field long, forcing a Taulia Tagovailoa fumble on the opening drive. But Minnesota’s offense took a couple drives to catch their footing too.

After a shaky start from Tanner Morgan and a missed 50-yard field goal by Matthew Trickett, the run game took off. Ky Thomas led the way with 14 first half carries that went for 104 yards and a TD.

The defense came to play again, spending most of the afternoon in Maryland’s backfield. Bucko Irving and Bryce Williams joined Thomas, trampling all over the turtles and making the most of their opportunities with Mo Ibrahim and Trey Potts out.

Defense + Run Game = Victory

The Minnesota Gophers got the ball coming out of halftime and put up another 7 points, stretching the lead to 24-7. A very nice mix of run and pass, including a 35-yard completion to Mike Brown-Stephens, was capped off by a Bryce Williams 2 yard plunge.

It was a great response after Maryland scored and blocked a FG to end the first half. After the Gopher defense forced the Terps to turn the ball over on downs, Mar’Keise “Bucko” Irving joined the party with a 9-yard TD run of his own. That gave the Gophers a commanding 31-10 lead, late in the 3rd quarter.

It was all Minnesota from there. The Gophers took complete control in the 4th quarter as they piled on the rush yards and, PJ Fleck’s favorite stat, time of possession. Maryland’s offense never had a chance to get going against a Gopher defense that looked dominant, at times. As the point gap spread widened in the 2nd half, pressure on Tagovailoa mounted and Minnesota’s front seven proved to be too much for the Terps to handle.

Dominating performance

When the dust settled, both Ky Thomas and Bucko Irving went for over 100 yards on the ground. It’s the first time two Gopher running backs have done that since 2019 (Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith vs Illinois). Minnesota finished the game with 327 total rushing yards (out of 452 yards of offense). They were also 7/12 on 3rd down and held the ball for over 37 minutes of game time.

It was a dominating 34-16 victory.

With the win, the Minnesota Gophers move to 3-1 in the B1G West (5-2 overall), which ties them with #11 Iowa for 1st place in the division. The Hawkeyes have this week off. The maroon and gold will travel to Evanston next week to take on the Northwestern Wildcats, who are 3-4 (1-3) and lost by three touchdowns to Michigan today.

Eric will have that game covered from (a likely empty) Ryan Field as he continues his 2021 Big Ten West stadium tour.

Brian Heintz | Minnesota Sports Fan