The Minnesota Gophers finish their non-conference football schedule on September 21, 2013 at home against the San Jose State Spartans. It was a brisk overcast morning as fans made their way into TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota. Gopher fans would leave in high spirits after seeing their team defeat their most difficult opponent of the year by 19 points.
Going into the game the talkers discussed endlessly the slow start that the team had in each of their first three games. San Jose State quarterback David Fales is anticipated by some to be a good enough talent to be drafted in the first round of the NFL draft and was expected to pick apart the Gopher secondary.
Finally, Gopher fans saw their starting quarterback Philip Nelson go down with an injury last week and red-shirt freshman Mitch Leidner come in and fill in competently. This week would mark Leidner’s first career start, how would he react to the pressure of a first start?
The answer is he was brilliant. Although only completing five of his 12 passing attempts for 71 yards, Leidner led the team in rushing with 151 yards and scored four of the team’s six touchdowns on the day, tying a school QB rushing touchdown record set back in 1967.
San Jose State’s Falles had, on paper, a great game completing 22 of 35 passes, three touchdowns and 439 yards. The key to the Gopher win was that they did not let Fales’ success get them down.
The defense came up with key play after key play to put the Offense back on the field including a spectacular one-handed interception by senior linebacker Aaron Hill that was returned 16 yards to the San Jose 12 yard line. Four plays later Leidner ran the ball one yard for the touchdown putting the Gophers up 26-17, the start of a 23-0 scoring run by the Gophers.
The Gophers dominated the second half and, despite only leading by three points at the half, played a good game for the first half and a great game in the second half. The Gophers retained possession of the ball for over two-thirds of the game and, especially in the second half, were able to run with great effectiveness against the Spartan defense.
The final score was Minnesota Gophers 43, San Jose State Spartans 24 as the Gophers conclude their non-conference schedule with a record of 4-0.
Going into the Iowa game next week one of the biggest keys that is apparent in the first four games, especially in the last two games, the Gophers have tremendous success running the ball. They do not, however, have that same success when throwing the ball.
With 353 of the Gopher Offense’s 424 yards the Gophers have had a dominant running game. The success of the run game will, eventually lead to defenses stacking the box and diminished success as opponents’ scheme for the run.
Stay tuned to The Minnesota Sports Report for continued coverage of Minnesota sporting events including homecoming on September 28, 2013.