As many expected, the Golden Gophers are sitting at 3-0 following nonconference play after a hard fought 31-24 home victory over well respected Mountain West foe Colorado State earlier this afternoon at TCF Bank Stadium. The sweep of the nonconference opponents is the first such sweep since 2013 when the Gophers posted a 4-0 start to the season before Big Ten play started. The last two years Minnesota's blemish came at the hands of the TCU Horned Frogs.
The two teams exchanged solid offensive blows in the third quarter.
Minnesota took a 17-7 lead to the locker room at halftime but Colorado State forced a quick Gopher punt and then responded offensively with an 8-play touchdown that covered 53 yards. However, it didn't take long for Minnesota and Shannon Brooks to respond. The Gophers extended their lead back to 10 points at 24-14 with a 4-play touchdown drive that went 76 yards in 1:54. Mitch Leidner got things going with a 32-yard strike to Drew Wolitarsky, but after that is was all Brooks on back-to-back runs. The first run was a 35-yard grinder that showed Brooks' toughness, strength and excellent vision. The second only showed that Brooks has the ability to control a handoff and stroll nine yards with nobody within 10 yards of him.
The Gophers appeared to have put the game out of reach at 31-17 with 10:12 left in the fourth quarter with an impressive 11-play, 81-yard touchdown drive immediately after a Colorado State 41-yard field goal by Wyatt Bryan to cut the Gopher lead to one possession at 24-17. This time it was Rodney Smith capping off the drive with his second touchdown run of the day, this time from two yards out.
However, the Rams made two big plays to keep their ensuing drive alive after facing 3rd and 22 at their own 13. First, Collin Hill hit Dalyn Dawkins for 17 yards on a screen pass. Then, despite in a 4th and 5 situation, the Rams successfully pulled off a fake punt when punter Hayden Hunt hit Braylin Scott over the middle for a 29-yard gain to the Minnesota 41. Five plays later Collin Hill hooked up with Michael Gallup for a 15-yard touchdown to cut Minnesota's lead to 31-24 with 6:24 remaining.
The Rams got the ball right back, after a three and out due to a sack of Leidner on 3rd and 6, at their own 24 with 4:19 left in the fourth quarter. This time the Gopher defense came up with a big play ending Colorado State's drive and upset bid when a Hill pass attempt was knocked down by Gopher safety Adekunle Ayinde on 4th and 5.
Minnesota opens up Big Ten play next weekend against the Penn State Nittany Lions, marking their first road trip of the 2016 season.