Minneapolis - The Minnesota Gophers lost a tough game Thursday night to the #2 TCU Horned Frogs 23-17 in front of a sellout crowd at TCF Bank Stadium tonight. The second-ranked Horned Frogs entered this season with national championship aspirations, and the Golden Gophers showed them just how difficult that pursuit is going to be.
It was over when: KJ Maye was called for pass interferance at the end of the 3rd quarter. Instead of Minnesota taking over the ball at their own 49 yard line with a new 1st down, the Gophers were called for offensive pass interference and were forced into a 2nd and 26 on their own 19 yard line. Big shift in momentum there when you're down 10 and trying to drive down the field. Maye was in the middle of a double move and the defensive back looked to have held Maye forcing him to run over him, but none the less, call was made and really killed the Gophers momentum.
He/They stole the show: Freshmen Rodney Smith and Julian Huff. Smith burst onto the scene tonight for 16 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown and it was clear that the offense was running a lot smoother with Smith on the field. Smith showed very good burst and good vision against the TCU defenders and has a lot of momentum to build on heading into next week against Colorado State. I don't think another freshman played as much as true freshman Julian Huff tonight and he was well worth the price of admission. Huff played as a standup defensive end for Minnesota and forced numerous pressues and totaled seven tackles tonight. Future looks very good for Minnesota with these two.
The stats don't lie:
Damarius Travis - 10 tackles
Briean Boddy-Calhoun - 9 tackles
Antonio Johnson - 9 tackles, 1 FR
Eric Murray – 8 tackles, 1 FF, 1 BrUp, 1 INT
Minnesota's secondary came to play tonight and was a huge reason why Minnesota was in the game until the waning moments of the game. While there were a few coverage breakdowns, TCU was never able to capitalize and the secondary was consistently making a ton of plays, which is why all four starters lead the team in tackles. Eric Murray performed well in front of numerous NFL scouts with an interception and a key forced fumble as TCU was driving into the Gophers redzone. I'll also add in Jalen Myrick into the discussion as well as he really didn't let Josh Doctson get loose as well. Very solid game by all.
What a Play: Mitch Leidner to KJ Maye flea-flicker. It was the Gophers first real big play on offense and it gave them a spark when they needed it in the first half. I'd also add in a few different plays from Julian Huff off the edge were extremely encouraging to watch as he was the most consistent Gopher getting pressure on TCU's Boykin all night.
Minnesota Head Coach Jerry Kill
On the message to a disappointed team…
“This is the first game of the season and there will be a lot to learn from it. Our kids played their guts out and it all comes down to turnovers. We had the ball on the goal-line and we fumbled one and then the left tackle missed a block and Mitch (Leidner) fumbled one and got hit in the back. You take those two things out of there to beat a team that’s No. 2 in the country you just can’t let that happen but our kids played hard. We had to go in there without Ben Lauer, and Foster Bush came in and did a heck of a job. Our kids played hard we just made too many mistakes, and against a football team like that you can’t. But I think it shows that we’ve got a lot to look forward to and we need to let this one go and get to the next one. We gave everything we had. At the end of the day, we just made too many mistakes.”
On defense holding TCU to 23 points…
“I think our defense played fantastic. There’s a few things they wish they had back. They played very well. You wanted to win that game 24-23. We felt good about defending them and felt good that we could score some points but we didn’t score enough and there’s a lot of things that need to be cleaned up on the offensive side of the ball but them scoring what they did, we don’t fumble it in the red zone and getting an interference call. Those three things are pretty big swings in the game.”