Eastern Illinois delivered a nut-punch to the Golden Gophers on Thursday night. The Gophers did actually win, but one of the Panthers did decide it was a smart idea to punch the swimsuit area of an opponent while broadcast around the nation on Big Ten Network. Talk about being ballsy.
It wasn’t quite the blowout that it probably should have been for Minnesota, but it was still a fairly strong performance for the Jerry Kill lead team. The offense started off slow, but did eventually put up 42 total points in the game, including 21 in the final quarter.
Mitch Leidner went 9-for-17 for 144 yards and a touchdown through the air, but Leidner also got it done with his legs. Leidner pulled it down and ran seven times for 14 yards with a pair of running touchdowns.
Berkley Edwards was huge for Minnesota on the ground as he racked up 60 yards on only four carries, including a 42-yard touchdown scamper. Edwards put two rushing attempts into the endzone. David Cobb was the leading rusher in terms of yards racking up 71 yards on 14 carries. The Gophers as a whole ran for 182 yards.
Donovahn Jones was on the receiving end of the Leidner TD toss, Jones had a total of three catches for 57 yards on the night. Maxx Williams caught a pair of catches for 57 yards, as well.
Eastern Illinois punting game was not a source of great pride for the Panthers in the season opener. A couple highlights include a punt that went three yards and another punt that was blocked and returned to the house by Logan Hutton for a touchdown.
The final score of 42-20 doesn’t really tell the story of how the Gopher defense performed in the season opener. The Gophers didn’t allow a score until the fourth quarter when the Panthers put up three touchdowns. The last two scores came in the last 28 seconds.
The Panthers tested out their on-side kick and recovered it after scoring with 28 ticks left. Eastern Illinois recovered and scored on a should-have-been-knocked-down Hail Mary toss with no time remaining.
It wasn’t a great ending to a game, but a win is a win to start of the season for the Gophers. The Gophers are now on a nine game winning streak against non-conference opponents in the regular season. That’s a fancy way of saying that the Gophers have been pretty darn good against non-Big Ten opponents and when it hasn’t been a bowl game.
It’s back to Saturday football for the Gophers next weekend. The U of Mers take on Middle Tennessee State from the Bank at 2:30 Central.