Gophers Have a New Three-Headed Monster at Running Back

Photo: @GopherFootball – Twitter

The Colorado Buffaloes defense was being propped up all over the country after holding the #5 Texas A&M Aggies to just 10 total points last weekend. They had only given up 117 rushing yards total over the course of their first two games. But, as I wrote about earlier in the week, I expected the Minnesota Gophers running game to prove the Buffaloes defense as overrated.

And that’s exactly what happened. It started, unsurprisingly, with a lot of Trey Potts. He looks better and better every time he takes the field and that progression continued today. Minnesota dominated time of possession and their defense held Colorado’s stagnant offense to an incredible 63 total yards and 0 points.

This is what you call a blowout, ladies and gentlemen.

3-Headed Monster?

Potts finished with 26 carries, 121 yards and 3 touchdowns. But PJ Fleck and the offensive coaching staff talked earlier in the week about getting other running backs involved on Saturday vs Colorado, to take some of the load off of Potts. So after redshirt Junior, Bryce Williams, fumbled his first carry early in the game, Fleck turned to true Freshman, Mar’Keise “Bucky” Irving, who immediately electrified the CU football field.

The two of them, along with some well timed Tanner Morgan completions, had Colorado questioning their existence as a football program. Redshirt Freshman running back, Ky Thomas, got in on the action late and looked great too.

It’s clear that the Minnesota Gophers have a bright future at running back. That’s something we’ve covered at Minnesota Sports Fan since Ky Thomas and Bucky Irving committed in 2019 and 2020, respectively. And after 2021 Mohamed Ibrahim dropped out with an injury after week one, I knew it was only a matter of time before we saw those two guys emerge from the fray.

Mar’Keise Irving

A true Freshman and former 4-star recruit, Bucky is a homerun threat every time he touches the ball and he’s impossible to bring down for such a small dude. He’s only 18 years old so as he gets bigger and builds out, he’ll only get better. That should scare opposing Big Ten West teams. Irving got a lot of carries while Saturday was still a game and held a better YPC average than Potts did. He’s clearly the new RB2.

Ky Thomas

Entering the season, I expected redshirt Freshman Ky Thomas (another 4-star recruit) to be ahead of Irving on the depth chart but it’s possible that (a) Bucky is that good and (b) Thomas is still climbing his way back from shoulder surgeryhe had last year.

But Thomas finally got some run in the 4th quarter Saturday. The game was decided, when he entered, but Ky didn’t care, running over just about every defender he came in contact with. His 9.4 YPC average (on 7 carries) tells a pretty good story. He also got in the endzone.

Three is better than one

It’s hard to say how touches will get divided for these running backs, going forward. We know Trey Potts is still the RB1 but it’s clear that Fleck has at least three guys who can cut up a football field in chunks. He wasn’t sure of that when they flew into Boulder.

So while winning this game was huge and obviously the #1 positive to take out of Saturday, multiplying the backfield by three trustworthy backs will pay dividends when Big Ten play resumes.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan