Gophers finding replacement bodies

Injuries are taking a toll on the Gophers, but the young talent has been enough to step forward so far.

The bodies keep dropping as fast as the wins keep coming. Sooner rather than later, the toll could tax the 3-0 Gophers.

For now, though, you'll have to excuse the players who are just excited to be winning again.

Minnesota's 35-23 victory over FCS school Montana State wasn't particularly pretty or dominating. But the Gophers will take it, particularly since they at least temporarily filled a hole at tailback.

Duane Bennett was lost for the season with a knee injury Sept. 6 at Bowling Green. Coach Tim Brewster was waiting to see another back step forward and grab hold of the job. It just might have happened with freshman DeLeon Eskridge, who carried 24 times for 114 yards and three touchdowns. The three rushing scores were the most by a Gopher freshman since Darrell Thompson ran for four on the same day in 1986.

Eskridge was a bit of an unknown entering the game against the Bobcats, but when Shady Salamon stumbled, Eskridge took over.

"He just kind of played his way into it," Brewster said. "That's what I said I wanted to see — one guy kind of grab the bull by the horns and say, ‘I want to be the guy.' DeLeon Eskridge did that."


  • QB Adam Weber and receiver Eric Decker have hooked up for scores in each of the Gophers' first three games this year.

  • Traye Simmons' second-quarter interception was the first of his career.

    GAME BALL GOES TO: WR Eric Decker — Became too much of a matchup problem for the undermanned Bobcats, catching nine passes for 157 yards and a score. He continues to be QB Adam Weber's favorite target, and with good reason.

    KEEP AN EYE ON: RB DeLeon Eskridge — Last week, Shady Salamon appeared to be the running back in waiting. After he faltered, Eskridge produced a big day. It would seem likely coach Tim Brewster will give Eskridge the first shot at doing it again next week.

    LOOKING GOOD: The defense intercepted Montana State three times, then the offense converted with two huge touchdowns.

  • Willie VanDeSteeg blocked a 41-yard field-goal attempt and an extra point. The blocked kicks were the third and fourth of VanDeSteeg's career.

  • Minnesota forced three Bobcat turnovers and did not turn the ball over for the second consecutive week. The Gophers are plus-8 in turnover margin this season.

    STILL NEEDS WORK: Minnesota committed eight penalties for 87 yards, exorbitantly high numbers for a team that should have been physically superior to the Bobcats at every position.

    Too many missed tackles on defense allowed the Bobcats to roll up 356 yards of offense. In fact, Montana State outgained Minnesota 356-352.

    Special teams gave up a 100-yard kick return to Demetrius Crawford.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're pleased to be a 3-0 team. Obviously there is some disappointment there. I'm not sure we improved the way I wanted us to improve." — coach Tim Brewster, after the Gophers struggled with a Montana State team that lost to Kansas State by 59 the previous week.


  • LT Dom Alford was lost in the third quarter to an apparent left leg injury. Alford finished watching the game from the sideline with his foot in a boot. The blow is particularly crippling since Minnesota lost two offensive linemen against Bowling Green and entered starting three redshirt freshmen up front.

  • With junior Jeff Tow-Arnett out with a knee injury, redshirt freshman Trey Davis took over at center.

  • WR Eric Decker insisted after the game he would return for his senior year. Decker is also an accomplished baseball player. He was drafted in the 39th round by the Brewers after batting .329 with three homers and 28 RBI in the spring.


    Minnesota 31, Northern Illinois 27: Duane Bennett scored on a one-yard plunge with 22 seconds left to send the Gophers to a season-opening victory. Bennett scored a pair of touchdowns on the day and helped Minnesota avoid losing despite choking away an 11-point second-half lead.

    Minnesota 42, Bowling Green 17: Quarterback Adam Weber threw for 233 yards and accounted for four touchdowns, and the Gophers put the game away with a 21-point avalanche in the fourth quarter. Minnesota turned four BG turnovers in the second half into touchdowns, blowing open what had been a tight game.

    Minnesota 35, Montana State 23: Eric Decker caught nine passes for 154 yards and a score, DeLeon Eskridge became the first freshman in 22 years to rush for at least three touchdowns and the Gophers improved to 3-0 with the victory over the Bobcats.

  • Gopher Illustrated Top Stories