TCF Bank Stadium -- Minneapolis, MN
The Miami RedHawks’ 2018 non-conference scheduled figured to be a significant challenge, and it has thus far lived up to that projection. The RedHawks are 0-2 with a road game at 2-0 Minnesota Saturday.
It’s just two games in, but MU has yet to hold a lead. The RedHawks fell behind early against Marshall, which held leads of 14-0 and 28-7 before MU made a second-half comeback that fell short 35-28.
Miami’s defense played well against Cincinnati, but the offense had trouble reaching the red zone, let alone score a touchdown. UC’s early 7-0 lead in poor weather conditions looked like it might be a final score until the game’s only turnover set up a third quarter Bearcat TD, and Cincinnati added a late score.
Minnesota, meanwhile, took the lead with a late TD preserved a 21-14 win over Fresno State with a late interception in the end zone. Coupled with a 48-10 blowout of New Mexico State, the Gophers are enjoying a 2-0 start.
MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS (2-0)
➤➤ The Gophers are coached by former Western Michigan head coach P.J. Fleck, who previously turned around the Broncos program behind his “Row the Boat” mantra.
His energetic personality and recruiting ability eventually turned WMU into MAC champions. They reached a school record No. 15 rank in the AP poll after a 14-1 season and appearance in the 2017 Cotton Bowl,
➤➤ Freshman Zack Annexstad is a highly-regarded quarterback who is technically a walk-on. Coaches are expecting big things out of him and he is gaining critical game experience each week.
Annexstad completed just 16 of 33 passes in Week One. He connected on 16 of 26 for 175 yards last week. He has two touchdown tosses and no interceptions so far.
➤➤ While UM won last week, it lost a key player in running back Rodney Smith. The senior suffered a knee injury and will miss the remainder of 2018. Smith carried 24 times for 153 yards in the opener, but was injured early Saturday.
➤➤ Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman are the Gophers’ top receivers, combining for 21 catches, 280 yards and two touchdowns.
➤➤ Kicker Emmit Carpenter has converted both his tries of 50 or more yards this year.
➤➤ Senior Ben Cashman led Minnesota with 10 tackles against Fresno State.
➤➤ Antione Winfield Jr. came up with a huge interception when FSU drove deep into Gopher territory. The Bulldogs had run the trick play successfully twice, but Winfield recovered to grab a running back’s pass into the end zone.
MIAMI REDHAWKS (0-2)
➤➤ Weather conditions last Saturday make it difficult to tell how much of an outlier Miami’s offensive performance against Cincinnati was.
Despite the constant rain and intermittent wind, however, MU seemed intent on throwing the ball. Quarterback Gus Ragland completed 22 of 41 passes. Seven were hauled in by senior WR James Gardner, who contributed 80 of the RedHawks 139 passing yards.
➤➤ Despite the weather conditions, there was just one turnover in the game, and that set up UC’s second touchdown. The fourth quarter score effectively put the game out of reach, although Cincinnati later added a final touchdown.
Through two games, Ragland has completed 54 percent of his passes with one interception and three TDs -- all against Marshall in Week One.
➤➤ Kenny Young continues to be a workhorse for Miami, rushing a team-high 10 times for 44 yards and also grabbing nine passes for 27 yards. The senior has averaged 97 ypg (rushing and receiving) over his last 11 contests.
➤➤ Maurice Thomas gained 21 yards on four trips, but MU totaled just 59 yards with its ground game against a big and formidable Cincinnati defense. A 9-yard run by Thomas was Miami’s longest rush of the night.
➤➤ Miami has rushed for 146 yards this season, averaging 3.2 ypc. The run game has provided one of four TDs -- all against Marshall.
➤➤ Miami and Minnesota last met on the gridiron in 2011. The Gophers prevailed 29-23 after deflecting a Zac Dysert pass for Chris Givens in the final seconds. Dysert had already tossed two TDs on the day, Overall, he completed 27 of 47 with two scores and one interception. Minnesota, a Big Ten member, has won all three previous meetings between the programs.