Darius Taylor Out vs Louisiana, Putting Pursuit for Gophers History in Jeopardy

Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Gophers will kickoff vs the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns on Saturday morning but they will do so without phenom true freshman running back, Darius Taylor, who injured his leg at the very end of the 4th quarter last weekend, as the Gophers were in the midst of blowing a 21-point 4th quarter lead vs the Northwestern Wildcats. Taylor was listed on the Minnesota injury report as “out” on Saturday morning.

It happened on the Gophers’ final offensive play in regulation. Taylor busted a 3rd and short designed inside run, to the outside, where he was caught and dragged down for a 1-yard loss. He came up grabbing at the back of his left leg and wasn’t available during Minnesota’s only drive of overtime, one that ended in a field goal.

PJ Fleck refused to update Taylor’s condition this week

PJ Fleck was asked for an update on Taylor’s injury during his weekly press conference, on Monday. His response was short and direct: “No injury update. I’ll have that for you two hours before game time [vs Louisiana].”

In other words: ‘I’m not telling you anything because I don’t have to tell you anything until the NCAA forces us to release the mandatory injury report two hours prior to each game’

But now, it’s official. and his absence from the active roster this weekend doesn’t provide much of an update on his health or status going forward this season. It could be a minor hamstring strain, it could be an ACL tear.

Prior to the injury, Taylor rushed for 198 yards and 2 touchdowns, moving his yardage total on the season to 532 yards. On Monday, he won his third-straight Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor. He’s the first ever Gopher to accomplish the feat and only the 2nd-ever Gopher to win it three times in one season (Shannon Brooks – 2015).

Darius Taylor 3-peats as Big Ten Freshman of the Week

PJ Fleck can’t help but feed Darius Taylor

The Minnesota Gophers were leading for nearly the entire contest, Saturday night, and Athan Kaliakmanis rebounded well from what he described as the worst game of his career vs North Carolina, the weekend before. But as the game went on, PJ Fleck could not help but run, run and run some more, especially after jumping out to a big lead.

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Offensively, Minnesota ended up running 42 times and passing just 19. While it’s true, I called for Fleck & Co to remain balanced, in the Northwestern game preview I wrote last week, it was hard to blame him for defaulting to the surprise freshman phenom, as the game went on. For three quarters, the Wildcats could not stop him.

Every time Darius Taylor touches the football, it feels like a game-changing play is one broken tackle away. That proved true on the Gophers final touchdown of the night, a 4th and short run up the middle that appeared dead in the backfield, but ended up a 43-yard TD.

Darius Taylor on pace to make Minnesota Gophers football history

Remember, Darius Taylor is a TRUE FRESHMAN. This time last year, he was getting ready for his senior homecoming game and the dance that followed, playing against 15-16 year old kids, much of the time. Now, he’s the #3 rusher in the nation in yards gained, stomping all over power-5 defenses in one of the two emerging super conferences of college football.

Legendary Gopher running back and current Golden Gopher color analyst (KFAN Radio), Darrell Thompson, set the single-season freshman rushing record in 1986, when he amassed an astonishing 1,376 yards on the ground.

Not only is that record in grave danger, should Taylor return to the Gophers’ starting lineup next week vs Louisiana, but Darius is currently on pace to rush for 1,596 yards, which would challenge Mo Ibrahim’s all-time single season record of 1,665, set just last season.

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But, you can’t break records if you’re not on the field so, as of now, Minnesota Gophers fans will hold their breath and hope Taylor finds his way back on the field after one missed week vs the Ragin Cajuns…

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan